|The same spot two days later. Not the same cars or drivers.|
On my commute, there is only one place where this could happen. Haren. This small town, just south of Groningen, is famous for its Shared Space, and I've also written before about how drivers ignore the speed limit on the very road where the incident occurred.
Many people I know, and myself too, avoid cycling through the Shared Space area because it's unpleasant to cycle through. I always take the back streets through Haren, avoiding the area with the shops in it (which also of course means that I've never bought anything from those shops). Many drivers also avoid it because it's horrible to drive through. The result is that Haren is the only place I've found so far in the Netherlands which has a problem with rat-running - drivers trying to avoid the Shared Space area instead drive aggressively through these back streets. Shared Space creates problems even outside its own boundaries due to these extra cars in the back-roads which ought to be properly be the preserve of cyclists and residents
The back roads have 30 km/h speed limits, but they are not arranged so that they are especially inconvenient for drivers to use as through routes. As a result of this, they have become de-facto main routes for drivers avoiding the Shared Space. Almost no drivers adhere to the speed limit.
Having given some background, here's what happened:
When the vehicles from the right had made their turn, I set off and almost immediately was close behind the second car. It turned out that the tractor was doing a maximum of 28 km/h and all of us were following it at this low speed. This didn't stop the driver behind me from becoming impatient and trying to overtake, but it was impossible so instead he/she went into the middle of the road, got 3/4 of the way past me and then started tooting the horn. I got in front and rode as close as possible to the centreline at 28 km/h (the speed of the cars and tractors in front of me) until first the car behind turned off to the left and sped down a side-street in the general direction of the shops and offices, and later on the cars and tractor in front turned down other side roads and I could get back up to a normal cruising speed.
As these things go, it was actually very minor. I wasn't crashed into or pushed off the road deliberately, nothing was thrown at me, no-one punched me. After I made it clear that I was staying where I wanted to be, the driver pulled back and didn't follow excessively close behind. However, these things which I've mentioned all happened to me when I lived in Britain, and they all happened a lot more often than once in every 40000 km of cycling. By comparison, cycling here has been miraculously free of hassle from drivers.
However, that's not because Dutch people behave particularly differently when behind the steering wheel of a car. As this incident shows, put people in the same situation and they behave in much the same way. In general, Dutch road designs call for design to be obvious so that correct, safe behaviour becomes the way that people will naturally drive. This incident occurred in a rare place where drivers and cyclists are crushed together, creating conflict.
I've long believed that the main reason why conflict between cyclists and motorists is rare in the Netherlands is that we exist mainly in parallel universes, and rarely have to directly interact. As a cyclist, either you're on a cycle path, or you're on a road which doesn't have cars on it. This rare exception shows how it should not be done.
Grotere kaart weergeven