Monday, 7 February 2011
When cyclists matter - Car crash and public response in Den Bosch
On the same evening as I'd watched some rather frightening BBC footage about a road rage incident in the UK which resulted in nothing more than the relatively minor charge of "careless driving", Mark Wagenbuur sent me this video showing what happened last year to a driver in 's-Hertogenbosch who had been showing off on the road and caused a crash.
The local newspaper was very much against the driver. They describe him as a "pirate" of the roads, and also as a "hufter". That's quite strong language for a newspaper, about as strong as "arsehole" in English. He was arrested and lost his driving license temporarily. He would have lost it permanently had he not passed an expensive exam to retain it. It was in the news for months.
Dutch roads are very safe overall, and extremely safe for cycling and, as Mark points out in the video, they are getting safer: "There were 339 injuries and 7 casualties in 2000. The figures dropped sharply every year to 133 injuries and just 1 road death in 2009. Only 44 of these injured people needed medical treatment." The figures are for all road users in the city, which has a population of about 140000. The attitude of road users has a lot to do with it, even in places such as on the video where the road layouts are rather old-fashioned.
I've previously covered other stories from Den Bosch, several of which show how the city is building better infrastructure for cyclists, the intention being both to increase safety further and to promote a higher modal share for cycling.
Note that things don't always go this way in the Netherlands. When they do, that can be seen as a result of cyclists not being an identifiable out-group and therefore being "deserving" of sympathy from the masses. However, in some cases local politicians blame cyclists for their own misfortune rather than working for better infrastructure which would avoid these problems from happening in the first place.
Compare with the very different public response to a crash between a car and bike in Cambridge last year.