September 27, 2018

Ban on mobile phone use for cyclists in 2019

Filed under: Bicycles by Orangemaster @ 2:44 pm

Anyone who lives here and who has visited this country and its bigger cities knows how dangerous cyclists fiddling with their mobile phones can be, and I for one welcome a ban on this hazardous activity that makes them a danger to others.

As of July 2019 the Dutch government will impose a ban on using a mobile phone, tablet or media player while cycling. But that’s not all: it will also affect tram drivers and drivers of vehicles used by the disabled.

Since there are more cyclists on bike paths and cycling speeds have increased due to the arrival of electric bikes, the lack of keeping your eyes on the road has also increased. There’s no word yet as to how much a fine will be, but the fine for motorists using mobile phones while driving is 230 euro, to give you an idea.

In the Netherlands bikes outnumber people, with nearly 23 million bikes for some 17 million people. The use of mobile phones is a growing hazard, with a smartphone involved in one in five bike accidents involving young people, according to the Dutch Road Safety organisation.

What about using your phone for navigation? Then it needs to be in a holder, not in your hands. Will there be enough police or other authorities to fine folks? That’s always the question.


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April 22, 2014

Swimming for kids now also about swimming skills, not just safety

Filed under: Sports by Orangemaster @ 4:53 pm

Today the national swimming organisation (KNZB) has introduced its own swimming certificate, as they said they would last year. They believe in teaching children the front crawl (aka free style) and the back stroke, as opposed to the breast stroke, which is what children usually learn when they go for their national swimming pool organisation (NPZ) certificate.

The biggest difference between the two organisations is that the latter is all about swimming as a safety measure and the former is all about swimming as a sport. The KNZB claims children were not being taught properly and has developed a system that also helps children obtain their certificates faster, something I’m sure will please many a parent. However, having to choose which certificate is better for your kid will most probably come down to the price tag. A quick tour of the Internet tells me a Dutch swimming certificate costs somewhere between 200 and 1000 euro depending on many factors, like how many weeks a course takes.

If I had to shop for a course and it was just about swimming or safety, I would opt for one that taught swimming as a sport. In Canada, I learnt both how to swim and how to save someone from drowning, and if I remember correctly, it was part of the same course. The idea that Dutch children are taught the breast stroke to swim to safety, but are possibly taught nothing about helping others, even how to properly throw a lifebuoy, makes me uneasy. And I did put those skills to use once when I was about 8 and a smaller child’s floaters clicked off while they were in the deep end of a very slow day at the pool and mommy had popped out for some cigarettes.

(Link:, Photo looking across the nearby Wolderwijd from Harderwijk to Zeewolde, Flevoland, by Sjaak Kempe, some rights reserved)

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July 12, 2013

Mobility scooters fall over often

Filed under: Health by Branko Collin @ 10:10 pm

A study commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment revealed that accidents with mobility scooters involve tipping in 70% of cases.

Plus Online wrote yesterday that 20% of these falls was due to inclines, bumps in the road and the likes, while 14% was due to driver error and 7% because the driver took a turn.

The cause of accidents with mobility scooters has become more relevant as the use of mobility scooters in the Netherlands has increased from 150,000 in 2006 to 250,000 in 2012.

The union for the elderly, ANBO, told Telegraaf yesterday that municipalities should provide training to new users of mobility scooters. Project leader Liesbeth Boerwinkel told the paper that matters such as braking and accelerating are confusing: “You need to squeeze the handle to accelerate, but people are used to bicycles with hand brakes. That is one source of problems.”

Both ANBO and traffic safety organisation Veilig Verkeer Nederland have their doubts about making training mandatory. A spokesperson for VVN points out that enforcing training “would be a reason for many people to not to use a mobility scooter in the first place. That would limit their freedom whereas we want to keep people mobile for as long as possible.”

The city of Purmerend recently offered a mobility scooter course to 450 people, Dichtbij writes. One third of them took the city up on its offer. During a two-hour workshop participants had to drive over an obstacle course that contained bumpy surfaces and sharp turns and where they had to practice stopping on an incline and parking.

The workshop was provided by scooter seller Harting-Bank who are in favour of making training mandatory—surprise, surprise!

(Photo by Facemepls, some rights reserved)

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July 15, 2012

Automobile repair companies face crisis

Filed under: Automobiles by Branko Collin @ 9:52 am

Dutch car repair shops are having a tough time. Their turnover has been dropping for years, NOS reports, and it’s all got to do with improved safety of both cars and roads.

The news site says safety improvements to cars, such as automatic parking systems and adaptive cruise control, prevent accidents. Car crashes have further been reduced due to the replacement of many crossroads by roundabouts.

Trade organisation Focwa believes that turnover will drop by several percent in 2012.

With regards to road safety Eamelje (where we found this story) adds that the 2,000 alcoholsloten (ignition interlock devices) that have been installed in cars in the Netherlands are good news on the one hand, but on the other, a bitter reminder of how many drivers overestimate their ability to keep a heavy vehicle under control. An ignition interlock device is a breathalyser coupled with a car lock. Before starting the motor, the driver must exhale into the device. If the blood alcohol level is too high, the car won’t start.

NOS reports that these devices cost 4,000 euro apiece, and that convicted drivers must pay for the device themselves. Convicted drivers are also legally limited to driving cars with these devices installed—bad news for professional drivers. Only Sweden and the Netherlands make use of ignition interlock devices on a large scale. Experienced drivers that have been caught with a 0.13% blood alcohol level are typically convicted to use these devices.

Twenty percent of all traffic deaths in the Netherlands are connected to drunk driving—130 of 661 road deaths in 2011.

(Photo by Photocapy, some rights reserved)

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February 16, 2010

The winter tires debate rages on

Filed under: Automobiles by Orangemaster @ 1:13 pm

The snow keeps coming down in the Netherlands, something that has not happened for at least 15 years according to my Dutch neighbourg who uses winter tires on his car. In fact, anyone who drives to Germany, Italy and France is obliged by law to have them on their car.

Winter tires are not obligatory in the Netherlands. With serious snow falls once every decade or so, it seems logically. However, this year, with an increase in accidents, all kinds of organisations are realising that saving money has come first and safety comes second.

“Not enough buses use winter tires” claims newspaper De Gelderlander. The biggest bus company Connexxion has none and they believe it doesn’t make a difference. Arriva, a smaller bus company, uses ‘all-season’ tires, which are really good for three seasons — not snow fall or a slippery road.

All-season tires were designed for wet and dry driving, while snow tires were designed for slippery conditions and very cold temperatures. And yes, we have had both from one day to the next here.

Touring cars use winter tires because they drive to countries like Germany, and taxi and transport companies switch to winter tires as well. Both of them can’t afford accidents.

Mini-vans that transport handicapped and mentally challenged children to school in the region of Utrecht don’t use winter tires, as their bosses apparently can’t afford them and they aren’t obligatory anyways. The story on telly was that parents were upset, drivers felt bad and the municipalities said the van companies should pay for the tires and the van companies said the municipalities should subsidise them. The cheapest van company wins the transport contract, so including winter tires is a big no-no. And saving money comes before safety again.

Recap: winter tires are good when the road is covered with snow and is slippery. All-seasons are good in many conditions, but don’t have the grip of winter tires and braking takes longer, which is dangerous. Ordinary tires are cheaper, but much more dangerous altogether in winter conditions. Winter tires are rarely needed and aren’t obligatory, but it is risky.

For days on end, when the snow kept coming down, the Dutch automobile association and Dutch road safety association told people to stay home altogether, which gives you an indication of how dangerous they thought the road was no matter what tires you had on your car.


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June 13, 2009

Successful TV ad remade 25 years later

Filed under: Film,Literature by Branko Collin @ 10:29 am

A TV ad made 25 years ago by Veilig Verkeer Nederland (traffic safety association) was apparently so successful nationally and internationally that the makers decided to create a remake. The old ad was broadcast until a couple of years ago and had started to look more 1980s than Michael J. Fox sipping a 7-up on a skateboard. The new and the old commercial—both in which a young child flying a kite running backwards and a car rushing on see each other only very late—show an interesting contrast in storytelling now and 20 years ago, although the differences probably derive from goals that changed over time.



(Link: VVN. Via: Sargasso, where they wonder which is the best.)

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May 3, 2008

Bike safety made hip with Bastiaan Kok’s camouflaged helmet

Filed under: Bicycles,Design by Branko Collin @ 11:07 am

The Netherlands is a country of bicyclists but by stark contrast (or perhaps because of that) helmets are not obligatory here. Designer Bastiaan Kok tries to remedy a distaste for helmets by coming up with a helmet that doesn’t make you look like you’re wearing a helmet. Covered to look like a cap or a hoodie ornament, the helmet quietly disappears against the backdrop of your backpack when not worn.

Kok’s design won first prize in a road safety contest by Vredestein, a Dutch tire manufacturer. Second place went to saddle bags with safety wheels for the elderly by Flip Ziedses Des Plantes, and third place to a dashboard cutesy animal by RenĂ© de Torbal that tells you when you’re driving your car safely and when not.

Via Bright (Dutch).

Update: Read these fine posts (here and here) by Tobias Sterling on the meaning of bike safety in the Netherlands.

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