Thursday, August 25, 2011

How to survive as a pedestrian in Groningen

IMGP4659Groningen is supposedly one of the top five bike cities in the world. It is flat, has narrow street and one in five of the population goes to the university, so I’m not surprised that almost 60% of transportation is by bike, yet it is hard, and very risky to be a pedestrian. So here are a few rules I have learned, often the hard way.
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1. Always take the first open bridgeIMGP3812 (because the other bridges all likely to be up and waiting for a slow progress of boats, barges and yachts). The highest right of way goes to boats, and no ones seems to stress out, no matter how slow the boats are.
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2. Biker riders usually look calm and nonchalant, but don’t be decided the lake of helmet doesn’t slow them of seem to make then alert to other bike riders or pedestrians. Some how the lake of eye contact seems to work most of the time. In fact the tinkling of bike bells isn't that common in Groningen. If you do hear a tinkle of a bike bell from behind it means that you have already been hit from behind or will be in the next split second!
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Bike seem to have the highest priority on the road, not officially. Their riders happily cross at read lights, and IMGP4757worse the official bike lights (only installed at a few major intersection go green in all directions at once and every pedals like mad crossing at right angles. There is some help with the pavements, grey is supposedly safe for pedestrians, whereas the red pavements are for bikes. But that apparently just means that bike riders can target slow pedestrians. there must be a secret point scoring system for cyclists and pedestrians on red bricks must score highly.The challenge sometimes is figuring out just which colour pavement you are on!
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3. Next priority goes to cars, which are largely excluded from the inner city streets and further slowed by a complex one way street system that possibly takes several years to learn and the added complication of virtually no free parking spaces. (There are a well established out of town parking areas). cars will mostly slow and stop if you are using a designated pedestrian crossing. Still I don’t take the chance with the slowing car and it frequently zooms through, no eye contact of course.
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4. The lowest priority goes to the pedestrian. Take a deep breath look both ways, then check again! Pretty girls never seem to get run over so maybe you just need to follow them.
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