Sunday, July 6, 2008

Roads, Bike Paths & Sidewalks

Now that we have been here for two months, I have decided that you should know something about the unusual roads, bike paths and sidewalks here in Nederland. The Dutch have left enough room in the space between buildings for cars, bikes, and pedestrians, and may even add a tree lined island in between. In the photo you can see the way it is set up across from our apartment. From right to left: sidewalk, bike path, one way traffic, tree lined island. Out of sight is a repeat of that going the other direction. This is an exception, some other streets are so narrow that you have to pull over to let on coming traffic pass. Oh, horses come along occasionally (police or just riders)and travel in the bike lane too. When there is parking on only one side of the street, you can parallel park facing either direction. It is amazing to see the small spaces that some people squeeze their cars into (we think some push the car in sideways). Also, it is not uncommon to see two wheels up on the sidewalk. Many intersections have round-abouts instead of stop signs. All traffic has to slow down, but all cars must go around at least one curve before proceeding. There is always one through direction of traffic, the others have to pause and feed into the circle. It is really quite efficient. Also, usually at other intersections without the round-about or traffic light, you just slow down and proceed when its safe. The person on the right has the right of way. Mix into all of that the fact that bicycles have the right of way, and you had better be watching the bike paths as well as the traffic lanes. Then there may also be the Tram (street car) or bus. Some of the bike paths have their own traffic lights. Oh, there are 20 million bikes in the Netherlands. You have to watch the signs along the streets, because many places require you to pay for parking. You have to find a parking ticket dispensing machine, put in a credit card and select the time that you need. A ticket is then printed out and you place it in the car window. The end time must be visible. The fines are heavy if you over-stay. The freeways have some great interchanges that rival the US, but then again you may suddenly come upon a traffic light on a lessor freeway. The exit and merge lanes are quite small at the start, but they quickly widen and usually give plenty of time to move over and exit. There are also controlled signs overhead on the freeways. When traffic is heavy the speed limit for each lane is posted at some lower speed. There are also notices of traffic delays listed on the signs. All in all you see very few accidents here. End of discourse, I just wanted to share this part of our adventure with you.

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