Tuesday, 8 February 2011
We've now lived in the Netherlands for about 3 and a half years. In that time, I've cycled tens of thousands of km (in 2010 I rode around 12500 km) in many different places, mostly riding quite quickly, sometimes riding quite slowly. Many of those kilometres were on my commute, so at peak times when lots of other people are cycling and driving.
In those three and a half years I've had three crashes on one sort or another. The first was entirely my own fault, and involved just myself. I cornered too fast on loose gravel on a small road in the countryside and fell off.
The second crash was on a day when it had rained, and then froze. One of my Mango's front wheels was on ice, the other was on asphalt and I span around when I braked. Again it was entirely my fault, and involved no-one else.
The third incident was last Sunday. This time, at last, it was an incident which also involved someone else - and more so, his dog. Judy and I had gone for a nice ride around the city and the countryside, and were just a couple of hundred metres from home when what you see in the video happened, on a cycle path in the same area as we walk our own dog. The video makes it look worse than it was. I had virtually stopped by the time I fell over, and I received no injuries at all. If I had not been holding my camera at the time, I would probably not have fallen over.
I've yet to be the victim of anything which could be remotely described as "road rage" or had any close-calls with cars. While the cycle paths here have, as you can see, not been 100% successful in keeping me away from over-enthusiastic friendly dogs, they have been extremely successful in keeping me away from motorists, and the danger that results from them.
There's a lot of completely uninformed nonsense out there about the supposed "dangers" of cycle paths in the Netherlands. Frankly, it's the sort of stuff which can only be written out of ignorance. For example, by those who's only experience of the Netherlands is from travelling here by train in the 1930s, and by those who've never been here at all.
There is no place safer to ride a bike, and no place more pleasant to ride a bike.
Dutch cyclists don't fill youtube with helmet-cam footage of problems that they have on their rides. It would be impossible to make a film like the excellent "Angles Morts" here because it would take several life-times to build up footage of enough incidents to make it look shocking. That's what proper infrastructure design does for cyclists - remove the hassle.
I'm quite happy to accept the occasional problem due to an over-friendly dog over being hassled by drivers and hit by cars.