Saturday, May 15, 2010


I am in Belgium where bikes are king. Sure, the traffic in and around Brussels is a giant headache, and gridlock is more and more common, but in cities like Gent and Bruges, the bike is still king of the road.

You are more likely to get hit by a cyclist than a car. I've seen my share of close calls--and there's plenty of blame to go around. Cars speed through narrow streets crowded with pedestrians and cyclists. Cyclists weave in and out of traffic, gliding right alongside the trams that may or may not be aware of their presence, and they'll do it (the cyclists, I mean) with a full load of groceries and a toddler or two along for the ride (on specially adapted car seats...think a bike converted to 'minivan' status.)

But here I have been told by the police, the law is on the side of the cyclist and the pedestrian. Cars, given their ability to do the most damage, are under more of an obligation to obey the rules of the road. One officer put it this way: the pedestrian and the cyclists are the most vulnerable on the road, so therefore, have more leeway. Not that they are welcome do be scofflaws...cyclists can and will be ticketed for going the wrong way on a fietspad, or bikepath. They can also be pulled over for not having working lights at night. Yes, really. A white light up front, a red flasher or static light in the rear.

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