Thursday 14 April 2011

Isn't the cycle path for cyclists?

A very annoyed cyclist from Amsterdam requests fellow cyclists to accompany him in noting license plates of vehicles that are illegally parked on the cycle path. He wants to try to get the drivers prosecuted. And he hopes that might also be possible for pedestrians. With all those intruders on the cycle path he is starting to wonder for whom the cycle path is anyway.

"Hang on" you might ask, "in Amsterdam?". Yes, that's right, even in Amsterdam!

But before you volunteer to help him... the request was published as a letter to the editor in an Amsterdam newspaper of:
14 September 1906.

This was the first year the cycle paths in the Netherlands were legally protected by the 1905 Road Law. I found this letter when I did research for an earlier post about the history of cycle paths in the Netherlands. It proves that at some point in history Dutch cyclists had the very same problems many cyclists in the rest of the world still encounter today, but the Dutch have come a very long way since. It is a pity that experience and expertise isn't taken advantage of more often.

Overtoom Amsterdam, around 1900
Overtoom Amsterdam around 1900

Letters to the Editor
Cycle path Overtoom

Overtoom, Amsterdam around 1900Maybe someone can inform me what the cycle path on the Overtoom is for. I myself do not know.

Yesterday evening I had cycled in Vondelpark the best of an hour. I exited through the gate at Schinkelhaven and around 7 pm I proceeded along Overtoom. The first thing I saw was a barrow on the cycle path, that, despite my ringing didn’t even get out of the way. A few yards down the road two police officers were having a pleasant chat. While I rode past them I asked whether this path was for cyclists or for barrows and police officers, to which I think they responded with laughter.

After I passed six unattended barrows, parked against trees on the cycle path, I ran into dairy cart number 3066, of which the driver was at the door of a home serving a maid. A little down the road is a dairy. Three of its carts were on the cycle path. A while later there was baker's cart number 4H52, the driver of which was doing the same as the driver of dairy cart 3066. Then there was a carriage of the city sewerage system, left standing right across the path. Thus far pedestrians had at least got out of my way when I used my bell, now two gentlemen and ladies were walking on the path in front of me who refused to move aside. I hit them. Wasn't the Overtoom wide enough they had the nerve to ask me. I tried to inform them that this path was meant for cyclists but they wished to walk where ever they pleased. I was called names, was grabbed by the arm and they threatened to kick my bicycle if I would run into them again, because they wished to continue their walk on the cycle path. I followed them until Leidseplein, hoping to see a police officer to make a point, even lodge a complaint, if necessary (no officer was in sight and in Leidsestraat I counted six). Let me also inform you that next to the cycle path one can find a wide pavement and next to that a very wide sidewalk.

Yours faithfully, A.C. jr. phone no. 2772

PS. Maybe the following plan would be of any use. I request names and addresses of some gentlemen cyclists who are inclined to accompany me at a dozen nights cycling along Overtoom. So we can note all license plates of carts, barrows etc. and try to get the owners or drivers prosecuted. Maybe this will also work against pedestrians unwilling to stay out of the cycle path.


Anonymous said...

This made me laugh! We´ve come a long way since then indeed. Every poor tourist who accidentally walks (or cardriver who parks) on a cycle path in Amsterdam can attest to that :-).

Norma (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Micheal Blue said...

Well, here in Toronto we really don't have "cycle" paths - we have "multiple-use" paths. Personally, I don't mind other users there, as long as they respect others. Unfortunately, some people take possession of the paths as if they are the only ones there. If you invent a portable egg-throwing machine, please let me know.