Traffic In Europe

Europe is fairly advanced in presenting decent alternatives for travelling by car. Most cities are equipped with pedestrian areas and bike lanes. An affordable and convenient public transport is available almost around the clock with trams, undergrounds and bullet trains included. If you hate cars or are worried about your CO2 footprint, Europe is the place to live.

Unfortunately, things aren’t perfect. Accidents involving cars, pedestrians and bicycle riders happen all the time and the opposing sides naturally blame each other (or at least the internet commentators representing both sides do). There is always some disagreement over whether or not one is allowed to ride with bike over the crosswalk, and, if yes, who is supposed to give way.*

What makes things especially difficult is that the guidelines differ greatly from country to country and even from town to town; some towns have special bicycle traffic lights and the bicyclists are expected to use the lane on the right, the others come with no traffic lights for bicyclists and it doesn’t really matter on which side of the street you’re on as long as you’re on a bike lane. Sometimes you are simply expected to “know things” and ride your bicycle on the sidewalk even if there exists no indication that this is what you should be doing. (If you don’t count the oddly excited taxi driver shouting at you and telling you to do so.)

It’s always better to be safe and always be cautious than blindly assume that people will respect the stop sign in the interjection you are planning to cross. After all, nobody wishes to get run over. But every now and then you get some unexpectedly courteous behaviour from the citizens driving, riding and walking around the neighbourhood. It is in those moments that you feel like someone other than yourself is actually giving thought to your safety.

*At least in Finland, where the discussion is particularly heated right now, the correct answer would be that the bicyclist may ride over the crosswalk but must give way to the motorists. If the car is taking a turn on the crosswalk, the car is supposed to give way. Piece of cake, am I right?

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2 thoughts on “Traffic In Europe

  1. As a person who has traveled to a few major European cities, I can say that, while the traffic is still bad, it’s great that such places are not relying so much on cars, and more on bikes and public transportation. Where I live in the United States, it’s car culture, and so everyone owns a car, thereby making it almost impossible to have a traffic-free commute to work. It’s getting better, but still far from being an ideal, biking city.

    1. It’s part of the culture really. In Europe, you usually don’t have any use for a car if you live in an urban area. It can often come as a bit of a shock how “irresponsibly” people in Spain drive but a short look at the statistics often shows that despite their unique driving methods, the number of accidents among the natives are actually pretty low. Even France seems to manage its anarchic system. But bring in a foreigner who is unfamiliar with the local driving etiquette and the result might be a disaster.

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