Surviving Dutch rush traffic
- Published on Sunday, 30 October 2011 01:00
- Written by Joachim van de Haterd
This post should actually be titled "How to behave like an ass in Dutch traffic, and get away with it". However, one important part of this rant will not be mentioned, and that is survival in the broader sense of staying sane.
In the Netherlands, rush hour traffic is more chaotic than it should be. The sheer number of cars has grown exponentially, whereas the infrastructure was unable to keep up. Furthermore, individualistic as the Dutch are, they do not particularly look around them when they are driving, or they just don't care.
As a result, the daily drive to and from work is a frustrating one. However, I found some ways to speed up my personal commute, and I am going to share them with you. A word of warning though: you will ruffle some feathers if you follow my advice and you must really know what you are doing.
Disclaimers - blah blah - Be fast
First and foremost speed and maneouverability are important. Sometimes you need to act fast. Your manoeuver should be done before the others know what is happening. Furthermore, you should be very, very alert. Do not start any fast actions unless you are absolutely positively sure that you will neither endanger yourself or any others. Furthermore, you should not be distracted by emotions like anger and fear. They affect your ability to make fast decisions.
We did away with the disclaimers and the warnings, so let's move on.
The Dutch have a very well-developed ability to bring traffic to a grinding halt. This stunning ability is called the Accordeon queue. When on a certain lane somebody brakes lightlly, the person behind her will brake slighly harder, causing the person behind her to brake even harder. At some point, people will have to break to an absolute standstill, thus being the cause of many accidents and even more queues.
One way to evade such accordeons is simply not to be in the fast lane, which in our little country is the leftmost lane. Granted: the slower lanes do often not allow for speeds over 80-ish. But there's always the possibility to pass that truck and return to the right lane.
The Dutch have this knee-jerk reaction to skip to the left lane when they see a truck on the horizon, thus resulting in a queue to pass said truck. The douchebag in front usually is a slow bastard as well, so everybody has just fruitlessly switched to the 'fast' lane. One way to deal with it, is to keep in the slow lane as long as possible and to merge left at the last possible moment. This does ruffle some feathers. However, since I generally am fast and manoeuverable, I merge seamlessly with the left lane, without forcing anyone to slow down. I do notice that people instinctively create a gap when I pass them on the right side.
Slow people? Nag them
While being on the subject of people being needlessly slow: here's a way for motorcyclists to deal with them. Assuming that these people use their mirrors, you can make sure that your headlight is aimed directly at their mirror. Do NOT get too close. This of course for obvious reasons. However, since you are blocking their view, you often badger them into making some space for you (and hopefully for the rest of the people behind you). Again, this is a very irritating way of asserting yourself.
One of the perks of motorcycles is the ability to cut lines before traffic signals. Unfortunately, not everybody is able or willing to give you the space needed to get to the front. If these people are unable to, there is no point in irritating them. Just get in line. You cannot win them all.
Obviously, you should be visible and audible. If people notice that you are trying to get past them, they will generally let you. There's no point in not doing it, but some people are just cretins. Or they are oblivious. But there will always be those who will not let you get by. Do not resolve this by active aggression. The being overly visible approach helps. Shine your headlights directly into their mirrors, give the engine some extra revving or just honk. If that doesn't help, just look directly into their eyes. People tend to find this extremely unsettling, especially when clad in heavily padded black clothing and a face-concealing helmet. Again, do not be aggressive. You are the most vulnerable person here. Always remember that.
Do not overdo
In conclusion, I have two final advices: live and let live. If you unable to cut through traffic, be good. Do not go too far. There is no point. You are walking a fine line if you do as I do. Some of these things may in some contexts be illegal.
Furthermore: always have a plan B. You will make mistakes some time, and you will need a bailout strategy. For motorcyclists, the space between two lanes is a relative safe haven, but you must make sure not to need it.
Happy riding and do not be too antisocial.