Featured in The Atlantic Cities — Bicycling is such an integral part of life in the Netherlands, you might think that Dutch people are born knowing how to cycle.
They aren’t, of course. What’s kind of wonderful is the way that they learn.
It’s not just a matter of going to the park with a parent, getting a push, and falling down a bunch of times until you can pedal on your own. Dutch children are expected to learn and follow the rules of the road, because starting in secondary school – at age 12 – they are expected to be able to ride their bikes on their own to school, sometimes as far as nine or 10 miles.
Because this independent travel for children is valued in Dutch society, education about traffic safety is something that every Dutch child receives. There’s even a bicycle road test that Dutch children are required to take at age 12 in order to prove that they are responsible cycling citizens.
This emphasis on early education in the rules of the road doesn’t simply result in well-mannered and safe bike riders who use the excellent cycling infrastructure on Dutch streets responsibly. It also means that everyone in the society understands what it is to be a cyclist. All the people driving cars have had experience on bikes. They can look at cyclists and think, “That could be me.”
How different from the way people on bicycles, or pedestrians for that matter, are perceived in the United States, with its mostly substandard infrastructure and wildly differing laws about biking (you must use the sidewalk, you cannot use the sidewalk, etc.). Here, drivers often see bike riders as nuisances or outright adversaries, whether they are obeying the law or not. Anyone who’s ever ridden a bicycle has experienced the rage. If you haven’t, take a lok at a few comments on a recent CNN article about bicycling injuries [Continue reading …]
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., not only are juveniles expected to drive, the values of automobile dominance are instilled from infancy in the toys and entertainment parents choose. In Delaware, children are even penalized for not taking Driver Education before a certain age.