Monday, October 27, 2008

Black and White - Zebra Crossings in the Netherlands

I stood today at the side of the road with my pram (my toddler sitting comfortably in it) waiting at a zebra crossing. Funnily enough, I was not standing there for my fun, not because I had nothing better to do than stand at the side of the road in the cold with my son and his wheels; I actually wanted to cross the road, safely and promptly on my way to an appointment.

Having moved to the Netherlands in 2000 I am by now a bit of a seasoned expat, and I am used to the Dutch way on so many levels and in so many areas of my life. It does not, however, mean I have to accept everything the Dutch do unquestioningly and without protest. A point in question being Dutch behaviour at zebra crossings. They simply ignore the existence of the black and white lines on the floor, and pretend not to see the blue signs displaying the presence of a crossing.

As car after car sailed past, most of them making a point to look at the two of us standing at the roadside, I became baffled that SO MANY cars failed to stop to allow our safe crossing. I began to doubt my belief that pedestrians have right of way at a zebra crossing. In fact, for a split second, I even began to embark on a fantasy that my son and I had mysteriously acquired invisible powers and I was temporarily excited about the fun we could have. One glance down at my red pram and my toddler's bright red jacket brought a sense of reality crashing back.

Once back home, I trawled the trusty Internet to double check the Dutch traffic regulations. The first thing I found was some advice on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office website;

"Pedestrians should be extremely careful when crossing roads, especially on zebra crossings. Look out for cycles and mopeds, which enjoy right of way over motor vehicles and often ignore road traffic rules as well as red lights."

Well, no beating around the bush there. If you value your life watch out on the Dutch crossings, and if a car doesn't get you then a bike or scooter just might.

On the Dutch 'Ministry of Transport and Public Works' website I found, quite clearly stated, under Article 49 the following;

  • Drivers must give way at all times to pedestrians and drivers of invalid carriages who are crossing, or obviously waiting to cross at a pedestrian crossing.

  • Subsection 2 above does not apply to drivers of vehicles forming part of a military convoy.

I certainly did not see any tanks or army jeeps passing so that was not it. And suddenly the penny dropped.... I am not being obvious enough whilst waiting at the side of the road.

That gives me something to work on over the coming weeks. If anyone has any ideas to help please feel free to comment....

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