I was out having a few drinks with my Taiko drumming buds, but it wasn't all hard work. One of the class is Dutch (well, half American, but grew up in Dutchland), and she was there with her Dutch husband (well, born in England, but moved to Dutchland when he was 6).
Anyhoo, we naturally got talking about cycling, since Rebecca had asked me for a PoP poster. Both cycled all the time in Amshterdam (naturally) but neither cycle here. They once got bikes and went along the canal, but were horrified by bikes and pedestrians having to mix, and found it stressful. Some interesting observations in general:
Why would you want to put yourself directly in front of motorised traffic that is then going to go faster than you?
Hang on! People can park in them legally?!?! If you park in one in the Netherlands you'll be towed within 15 minutes. Stop in one on your driving test and you will be failed. Stop to drop someone off and don't check the lane is clear before opening your door and you will be fined.
Helmets and Hi-Viz
I'm sure you'll know what they thought of that...
This one I found really interesting. The general principle in Holland is that those going in a straight line have priority. Those who are deviating from that straight line take responsibility for checking the way is clear. Cyclists and pedestrians going straight have priority over a car turning into a junction, for example (they were stunned to find out that that rule also applies to pedestrians here, not that many people know that bit of the Highway Code). Thinking on it, it's perfect logic, the deviation is a manouevre, and therefore requires thought and care (not that driving in a straight line doesn't, but a turn is a naturally more risky move). That's why when you're cycling along and a car passes, but indicates to go into the next road on the right they will then wait for you to re-pass.
I hadn't expected this. It came out of the blue, but Sam mentioned it as being a reason that drivers all over Europe are more careful around cyclists. I've always accepted it might make a bit of a difference, but the view on the continent seems to be that it is a truly major factor.
Most of the worst cycling incidents involve large vehicles - why would you specifically put buses and bikes into direct conflict?
In general they were incredibly scathing of Edinburgh Council's attempts to promote cycling (they knew about the 2020 target and so on) with the perfectly succinct line of "You guys are just getting it all wrong." It was hard to disagree.
Sam has just completed, or is in the process of completing, a big academic report on cycling in Edinburgh, and has done interesting things like mapping where cyclists ride when the cycle lane has a big 'END' painted, thrusting you back out into the road. I hope to be able to get my hands on a copy of the report, it would make interesting reading.