My fellow Dutch cyclists, we live in a cycling paradise. It may rain and storm here, and at times we may feel a bit stressed, but compared to any other place on Earth, our country is a cycling Valhalla. Just think of it – there are whole continents out there without a single kilometre of a proper bicycle path! And we here are so used to it, we don’t even realize how privileged we are. I think that, since we are so well-off, we have a responsibility – we have to be worthy of this extraordinary privilege. We have a standard of cycling behaviour to keep up. We must serve as a beacon of light to the world, as a shining example to all those oppressed and threatened cyclists elsewhere, to demonstrate them that there is a better (cycling) world they, too, can hope and aspire for. Therefore, I would like to ask you to attend to a few points that would make our cycling experience more blessed and make peaceful coexistence with other road users easier to achieve.
- Use a proper light. Its winter time, and it is seriously dark out there. So many cyclists do not realize how poorly visible they are from a car, especially in bad weather. A simple, constant light is best – try to avoid those flickering torches, as they are absolutely blinding.
- Have a bell and use it (when needed). Especially you, the sports cyclists – the added weight of the bell is about 10 grams, much less than that beer belly you’re lumping along. And to you, Amsterdam cyclists – lighten up, its the taxi’s that are out to get you, not the pedestrians, and the taxi’s won’t hear you even if you blow a ship’s horn.
- Ditch the headphones. If you don’t hear my bell its bad enough. But if you don’t hear that bus coming, its a disaster. And no, you won’t hear it coming. I mean, your music is so loud, I almost don’t hear it coming. Want to listen to music on your commute? Take the train.
- Don’t use the whole road/cycling path. And no, I am not only talking to the teenagers riding 3 abreast on their way to school. I am talking to you, families with children – it’s great you teach them to cycle, but for God’s sake ride between your child and the traffic! And especially to you, senior citizens – yes, you’ve built this country from scratch and all, but now you have to share it with other people, too.
- Mind the cars. Its basic physics – the average car is 10 times heavier than you and 5 times faster. It means it hase 250(!) times more kinetic energy than you. And it has crumple zones. You don’t, and no, if you have boobs, they don’t count either. The car is just bigger, faster and stronger. It will win the wrestling match. Even if you were right (and I am reminding this to myself here most of all).
- Have breaks. If you ride a fixie with no brakes, you don’t look cool, you look stupid. Because most chances are you have no idea what you’re doing, unless you’re a real indoor racer. And let’s be honest here – you’re not.
- Don’t use your phone. Is it really necessary to WhatsApp and pedal at the same time? Would you like the truck driver to chat on his mobile while taking the same corner you do? So why are you doing this? I’d say the upcoming traffic will have more impact on your life than the latest status update on Facebook.
All of these points are common sense. I’m sure you know it all without me having to remind you. And failing to meet these points is a traffic rules violation that can be, and often is, fined. But the most important point I want you to remember is that cycling is fun. We do it because we enjoy it. Really, we do, because otherwise we’d drive or take the bus, or use some other smelly tin box. Relax, smile, and enjoy the ride. You’re in a better position to enjoy it than anyone else in the world.