Published in El Pais, 19 June 2021.
In the Netherlands, bicycles are part of people’s lives. On average, each person owns 1.3 to 1.9 bicycles. The Netherlands has one of the largest bicycle parking spaces in the world and has bicycle paths with their own traffic lights and separated from the car lanes. In the case that the lane must be shared with cars, the rule is that motorists are always at fault if something happens to a cyclist because the cyclist is more vulnerable to what a motorist could cause them. For this reason, cars and motorcycles have to take care of cyclists.
Even so. In the Netherlands, 10-year-olds have traffic classes for a year. The school teacher carries a text prepared by the association for safe traffic to teach the children to read the road signs in the street. They learn what these signs mean and how they are used. They learn to extending the arm and look for traffic before turning, or the rules in different traffic circumstances. At the end of the school year, the children take a written theoretical exam and for those who pass a practical exam is planned a month later.
The practical exam includes several aspects. One is the review of the condition of the bicycle (brakes, lights, bell, etc.). A second aspect is that they have to drive through various streets of the city, sharing the street with the mobilities. Examination personnel are in different positions to check by list if the child is doing well when riding the bicycle. Many fail the exam and will have to do it a year later. The general objective of this activity is for children to learn to ride their bicycle safely according to the traffic rules that will serve them for a lifetime. From a young age, they are sensitized with care for pedestrians and cyclists. Thus, many who will begin to ride their bicycle to school alone will feel protected by respecting the rules. Do you think it would be possible to start traffic classes in schools to improve our behavior in traffic?
About 45% of workers and students in the Netherlands cycle to their work or classes. Companies have seen valuable results by encouraging the worker to leave the car behind and take the bicycle and pay 40 cents per kilometer traveled, in addition, some companies such as the university pay you up to 1000 euros to buy a bicycle every three years . Among the benefits of riding a bicycle are: compulsory exercise, relax, avoid burn-out and stay energized throughout the working day.