All about cycling in the Netherlands
If this doesn’t make you feel good I don’t know what does: a lovely fairy-like girl in a dress full of lit cycle lights handing these lights one by one to people on bicycles who don’t have working lights. The cycling offenders were brought to her by her helpers. Two assistants on bicycles, one covered in white lights followed by one covered in red lights. They found the offenders with the help of a spotlight. After the fairy gave the ‘evil cyclists’ a white front light and a red back light they could be on their way again. Much safer this time and on the right side of the law. Probably also glowing after so much friendliness.
I want to see you, show in the bicycle lights campaign 2012
The evening spectacle took place in ‘s-Hertogenbosch the other day, but it is a traveling show. Many cities in the Netherlands will be visited as part of a much larger campaign organized by the Dutch Cyclists’ Union (Fietsersbond). Director Hugo van der Steenhoven personally opened the night in Den Bosch. The catch phrase this year is ‘Ik wil je zien’ (I want to see you). But this campaign to remind cyclists to use their lights returns every autumn and is in turn part of the umbrella governmental road safety campaign ‘Daar kun je mee thuiskomen’ (That will bring you home) that is also aimed at motorists sometimes, as I have shown you before. A notable earlier version of the bike lights campaign was the one saying “loose lights are okay too (but don’t forget to turn them off)”. Which ran in 2008, the year the law was changed and detachable bike lights were acceptable too. One thing all the versions of the annual bicycle lights campaigns have in common is the very positive tone. In Dutch campaigns you usually do not see any fear mongering, but rather a positive message to get people to change their behaviour.
The campaign especially targets the youth from 13 to 25 years old, because investigations show that is the age group least likely to have lights on a bicycle. It is very important to have lights since in the darker season in the Netherlands it can be dark from as early 4 pm, to 9 am the following day. In which time of the day and night a lot of cycling is done, also by younger people going to and from school and sports clubs etc. The campaign is accompanied by a Facebook page and a website and there is an app where you can transform pictures to send to people you would like to see.
Lights on bicycles have been mandatory in the Netherlands since as early as 1905. If stopped by the police, you do get a fine for not having lights which is €45. It’s another €30 if one of the mandatory reflectors is missing. And you need quite a lot of reflectors under Dutch law. There has to be a red reflector at the rear of the bicycle and there need to be yellow reflectors on back and front of the pedals (all since 1979). Every bicycle wheel has to have a reflective surface over the full size of the wheels on both sides in yellow or white (since 1987). As said, loose lights are permitted since 2008 but they have to be attached as steady as possible. Which means they are only allowed to be worn on the body and not on the arms or legs. Illegal under Dutch law are flashing lights. This may surprise you but there is a good reason. Flashing lights are only permitted to indicate a direction change but especially to mark a dangerous situation and if there’s one thing cyclists are not, it is dangerous. All these measures are in place to make sure other road users instantly recognize that they are approaching someone on a bicycle and not something else.
Most people in the Netherlands use dynamo powered bicycle lights. Simply because when you use your bicycle every day you want the most reliable lights and batteries are always flat when you least expect them to be. Fixed lights can also not be misplaced or forgotten. Modern dynamo’s do not require any noticeable effort to power your lights. How different it was, when in 1905 the laws on lighting came into force! My grandfather always told me a nice story about when he was a teenager in the late 1910s, early 1920s. In those days electric lights were far too expensive for ordinary people so they had “bicycle lanterns” with real candles! But according to my grandfather: “these terrible candles would always be blown out every time the wind got into the lantern!” If that was close to home they were too lazy to stop yet again, open the lantern and get fire to light the candle again, especially with cold hands that was a real hassle. But of course you would always bump into the local constable at such times. Who would always check the excuse ‘it got just blown out officer and I am almost home’ by touching the lantern to see if it was still warm. “And boy, if it wasn’t! You’d be in big trouble!” How easy we have it nowadays! Hi-viz gear is absolutely not necessary, but we really do want to see you, so use your lights!