On narrow country roads throughout the Netherlands, the needs of cyclists come before those of drivers. Cycling southward from Amsterdam to Rotterdam last year, I was shocked to realise much of the marked bike route I started out following (before I got lost), was comprised of shared narrow roads with two-way car traffic. At first I thought, I could get as much in Australia, but quickly noted these roads weren’t divided into two car lanes, with sketchy shoulders given to cyclists. They were divided into two bike lanes, plus one narrow car lane in the middle.
Drivers proceed at half or two thirds the speed they would in Australia. They don’t assume they can travel all day at the maximum allowable limit, as though this were their divine right. Rather, they find their brakes each time they encounter traffic from the other direction, even if that means virtually stopping, to file in behind me. Elsewhere in the world, two cars would pass at full speed, as if I were a bug they could hose off their tires.
This approach to managing traffic on country roads, spares the Netherlands having almost all trips in the country being made using motorised vehicles, as happens in most industrialised nations. Whether you own a cheap bike, a racing bike, or even a human powered velomobile, you can live in the country, and make a portion of trips by your own steam. Kids can ride to school in Dutch farming regions, something that has been virtually unthinkable in rural parts of Australia since the interwar era.