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Do cyclists face the same issues in Europe?

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Do cyclists face the same issues in Europe?

Old 01-25-08, 02:12 AM
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Do cyclists face the same issues in Europe?

A general question that stemmed from the most recent posting of a DA not prosecuting (or not prosecuting enough) of a motorist who had killed a cyclist on the road...

In Europe, do cyclists who use the road face the same sort of bullsh*t? Are cyclists being killed by drivers and the drivers not being prosecuted? Is there a motorist bias in Europe?

(I'm wondering because a move to France has been an ambition of mine, and I'd like to know what I'm getting into prior to making the steps)

If anyone can offer some insights, I'd be delighted. Thanks.
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Old 01-25-08, 05:05 AM
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I think that you'll find that the law is more cyclist friendly, not least of all because it is operated on what you would consider a federal level. Rules are applied nationally and don't present even half the quagmire that the litigious system found in North America. However, the application of the law isn't half as even as it should be and there are often miscarriages of justice from the cyclist's perspective. I'll not waste time with posting examples as I'm sure many other members of this board will soon be on the google trail.

The most important thing about Europe is the culture and attitude towards cyclists. In France in particular, a lot of respect is given for cyclists of all strains. Not only is the thinking behind it recognised and appreciated, but it is also encouraged. When speaking in a bar to a local about this last summer, we were told that whilst they would never cycle, nobody wants to be the person responsible for the death of someone who's ridden le Tour. Even in Britain, which is the most like the US, the hype on TV is far worse than the actual situation. Sure nowhere is absolutely safe, but nobody is going to walk up to you as you unlock your bike in front of a store and call you a suicidal idiot.
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Old 01-25-08, 09:25 AM
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I think by trying to talk of some 'Europe' you are making to broad a generalisation.

There seems to be a slight aversion to Cycling in Spain, where the most popular mode of transport from what I've seen was Motorscooters or Motos. Which may explain the article above a little.


Whereas in northern Europe bicylcing is very popular and much more ingrained and respected.

the UK attitude is similar to the US but then it should be remarked that Car Ownership per capita in the UK seems quite low. (compared to Australia and I assume the US - what seems the most Car-centric culture in the known world) (idiots! - but thats another story...)
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Old 01-25-08, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by lukeC View Post
I think by trying to talk of some 'Europe' you are making to broad a generalisation.

There seems to be a slight aversion to Cycling in Spain, where the most popular mode of transport from what I've seen was Motorscooters or Motos. Which may explain the article above a little.


Whereas in northern Europe bicylcing is very popular and much more ingrained and respected.
Your reference to the northern Europe verses southern Europe (Spain) strikes me as an interesting contrast... to that of the northwestern US verses the southwestern US... where the former (Oregon) has a strong drive toward cycling and the latter tends to be more auto oriented (southern California).

Oddly, one might think the warmer climates of the southern areas would invoke more cyclists. Of course this too is a very broad generalization... but if you squint a bit, it does stand out.
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Old 01-25-08, 11:11 AM
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Here in germany A LOT more people cycle, one because the kids have to be 18 before they can get a license, and its really expensive. There are bike lines all over the place, lights with another set for the bikes. The drivers grow up riding a bike so they really look out for bikers. There have been plenty of times that i will stop thinking this crazy guy in the car is going to run me down, but they just stop too and wait for you to go. As a bike on the road you have as much if not more power than a car. Ive only had one close call and it was partly my fault (dark, bad lights, riding stupidly)

Its also easier to ride here just because everything is muuucchh more close together. at home in the u.s. id have to ride 3mi just to get something to eat, here its just up the street or so, and the town is only 50,000 or so big.

the cobblestones are ****ing killer though.
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Old 01-25-08, 12:44 PM
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It probably depends a lot on where in Europe you are talking about... Europe encompasses quite a few countries with different languages and people with different mindsets.

I was in Finland about 6 months ago and discovered a totally different mindset about bicycling... so different in fact that it was akin to visiting "bicycle heaven," it was so unique compared to the usual treatment here in the US.

Cyclists actually had a wonderful dedicated network of paths that allowed one to easily reach all areas in town and to go cross country to other towns without the use of the auto streets... further, motorists actually watched for cyclists and gave them ROW when the rare conflict occurred.

Everyone biked... from old ladies to kids. Bikes were lined up in rows outside of all the stores. Only bikes and pedestrians were allowed in the town center. Drivers had to go the long way around, "shortcuts" were for bikes.
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Old 01-25-08, 03:39 PM
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Let's see. I cycle to work (even in Winter). So does my boss. So does his boss. The fact that our office has 150 parking spots for 1900 employees helps ofcourse.
Cycling as transportation is common in Northern and Central Europe. In Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and The Netherlands the law and customs are clearly on the side of the Cyclists. I assume the situation will be similar in Scandinavia, but I've never been there, so I don't know much about it.
I've lived in Belgium, the Netherlands and now I live in Switzerland. My experience is that motor vehicle drivers really take care not to hinder bikes. Most drivers are well aware that if they get involved in an accident with a cyclist they will be liable for all the damage, unless _they_ can prove gross negligence on the part of the cyclist.
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Old 01-25-08, 07:03 PM
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The UK situation is probably half-way between US and northern Europe. Our cycling rates are considerably lower than other European countries, but marginally ahead of yours.

Our driving test is more demanding than some US ones I've read about and seen on tv, so it's possible that standards are higher. I've also never been told to ride on the pavement (sidewalk), but I have been told I shouldn't be allowed on the road.

As far as the legal systems are concerned, we share Common Law as part of the basis of our legal system. In some other European countries, since drivers should give cyclists 2m room when overtaking, the driver is considered at fault in almost every bike/car collision, since cyclists would have to swerve really violently to put themselves in front of a car.

There are other similarities and differences, but it's 12.59am my time and I've just got back from the club's annual dinner and I've got to get up tomorrow and lay out a cyclo-cross practice course to prepare our kids bike club members for the national schools 'cross champs which one of my fellow coaches is running in Feb.

So goodnight everyone - I shall rejoin the fray tomorrow as a giant refreshed
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Old 01-25-08, 09:16 PM
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Originally Posted by prendrefeu View Post
A general question that stemmed from the most recent posting of a DA not prosecuting

In Europe, do cyclists who use the road face the same sort of bullsh*t?

(I'm wondering because a move to France has been an ambition of mine, and I'd like to know what I'm getting into prior to making the steps)
My Wife and I have the same plan. We are doing an exploritory,
job seeking trip in the summer and I will bore all with my
impressions upon return
Most people wouldnt understand it, but leading a simplistic,
non-autocentric lifestyle is very important to me. The majority
of the motoring public here S.FLa are just mean, nasty people.
They would hit you if no one was looking and not bat an eye.
They have worn me down. Im totally disgusted.
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Old 01-31-08, 10:46 PM
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I lived in Vienna for several months. It was much more bicycle AND pedestrian friendly than any US city:

Many of the busiest streets had bike paths seperated from car traffic by medians. Riding a bike had no stigma attached.

Good, integrated, public transportation...no bikes on U-Bahn (subway) during peak hours though.

In addition to having buisnesses located in residential areas, there were many pedestrian/bike shortcuts through the middle of long blocks.
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Old 01-31-08, 11:46 PM
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I've recently cycled thousands of kilometers over about 2 months in the UK, France, Belgium (and a little bit of Germany), and have thoroughly enjoyed it ... I especially enjoyed cycling in France.

Have a look at my website in my signature line below. The first story on the main page is about Rowan's and my 1-month tour of Europe last August.
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Old 02-01-08, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
I've recently cycled thousands of kilometers over about 2 months in the UK, France, Belgium (and a little bit of Germany), and have thoroughly enjoyed it ... I especially enjoyed cycling in France.

Have a look at my website in my signature line below. The first story on the main page is about Rowan's and my 1-month tour of Europe last August.
Do you really think a controlled mass event gives you any honest insight into the characteristics of cycling in another country?

I mean certainly it was probably a good time (in spite of the weather and timing issues), but with closed roads and officials standing by, not to mention the mass of other cyclists, this was probably nothing like what a daily commuter might face in Europe.
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Old 02-01-08, 09:42 AM
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My own admittedly biased and myopic viewpoint, based on two trips to Europe and business travel in 30 U.S. states and 3 Canadian provinces, is that the countries with the strictest driver's licensing laws and rules of the road (Germany, Austria, Scandinavia, Benelux, perhaps the U.K.) have the highest levels of bicycling, whereas those with more lenient licensing and arguably greater anarchy on the road (southern Europe, U.S.) have significantly lower levels of bicycling, perhaps partly because of intimidation.

European visitors to San Diego covet our greater access to roads and overall freedom of mobility, but also tend to get understandably nervous on some of our faster roads and tricky free merges and diverges.
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Old 02-01-08, 09:51 AM
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Having lived in the south of France and active in an association of bike clubs ; I can't think of one accident or death of a cyclist in over the two years we have lived here. The laws are very simple. Motorists are petrified of hitting a cyclist. The laws says simply, you can't pass a cyclist in the country with less than a 1 1/2 meter clearance. In the city 1.0 meter. You pass a cyclist with less you are breaking the law. That pretty much means, anything happens to a cyclist, you are guilty. Can't say if a prosecutor would prosecute, because I can think of one example of cyclists being hurt by a motorist. We live in an area of about 1/2 million people within 30 miles of us. /
Not to say French motorists are not impatient. They are fast. if they think there is a window to overtake someone, no matter how close the call; they will . In probably 12,000 miles of cycling, just this month I had my first incident with a motorist. That motorist speeded up in order to overtake me and then made a right. I barely stopped in time or else I would have been over his trunk.
The difference. They will act that way to anyone whether they be a motorcycle, pedestarian, cyclist-whatever. They don't pick on cyclists. But, if you think French motorists fast, go next door to Spain.
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Old 02-01-08, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Do you really think a controlled mass event gives you any honest insight into the characteristics of cycling in another country?
Good point. Impressions about cycling in this country gained from participating in a controlled mass event (like RAGBRAI) may or may not have any relevance (outside of geography and weather) to the typical cycling conditions for the local cyclists.
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Old 02-01-08, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Do you really think a controlled mass event gives you any honest insight into the characteristics of cycling in another country?

I mean certainly it was probably a good time (in spite of the weather and timing issues), but with closed roads and officials standing by, not to mention the mass of other cyclists, this was probably nothing like what a daily commuter might face in Europe.


You obviously haven't read my site!! The "controlled mass event" took up about 36 hours of the 31 days I was there.

And on the mass event, the roads weren't closed ... and the officials weren't standing by.

Have a look at my site.
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Old 02-01-08, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by iltb-2 View Post
Good point. Impressions about cycling in this country gained from participating in a controlled mass event (like RAGBRAI) may or may not have any relevance (outside of geography and weather) to the typical cycling conditions for the local cyclists.
It might have been a good point if it were valid.
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Old 02-01-08, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
It might have been a good point if it were valid.
Its valid alright about cycling "impressions" of a country as reported from the P-B-P. The post ride touring in Nancy and Strassburg commentary did seem related to typical bicycle touring conditions in that area of France.

Too bad you missed the Musée de l'Ecole de Nancy. My family and I made several day trips to Nancyand always made that museum a stop. Exquisite Art Nouveau pieces on display.

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Old 02-01-08, 12:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
You obviously haven't read my site!! The "controlled mass event" took up about 36 hours of the 31 days I was there.

And on the mass event, the roads weren't closed ... and the officials weren't standing by.

Have a look at my site.
Machka I went to the site... and read the blog 2007 "PBP Experience
August 16 - 24, 2007" I saw this:

as well as this: "The police had closed off the road for quite a distance so that we could ride in peace, unobstructed by traffic. They also let us go through red lights and stop signs. I believe that the roads were blocked off for the first 20 kilometers or so, and then we were out in the country so it wasn't essential anymore. This year the police were almost the only people cheering us on because of the weather."

So forgive me if I got the wrong impression. Perhaps you can post the exact URL that I should read.
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Old 02-01-08, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Machka I went to the site... and read the blog 2007 "PBP Experience
August 16 - 24, 2007" I saw this:
as well as this: "The police had closed off the road for quite a distance so that we could ride in peace, unobstructed by traffic. They also let us go through red lights and stop signs. I believe that the roads were blocked off for the first 20 kilometers or so, and then we were out in the country so it wasn't essential anymore. This year the police were almost the only people cheering us on because of the weather."

So forgive me if I got the wrong impression. Perhaps you can post the exact URL that I should read.
Here:
https://www.machka.net/pbp2007/2007_PBP.htm

That's the whole trip ... the section of my site which you glanced at was a tiny percentage of the whole trip.

And even on the PBP, the roads were blocked off for the first 20 kms or so ... but the PBP is 1200 kms.
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Old 02-01-08, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
Here:
https://www.machka.net/pbp2007/2007_PBP.htm

That's the whole trip ... the section of my site which you glanced at was a tiny percentage of the whole trip.

And even on the PBP, the roads were blocked off for the first 20 kms or so ... but the PBP is 1200 kms.
OK I went back to your page... and while it was a nice travelogue, it hardly compared and contrasted the cycling picture in Europe to other places.

I did see a bit of commentary... like this:
"The bicycle shops we came across both in Belgium, and the area of France near there, contained a few road and mountain bicycles, but mostly step-through bicycles. I glanced at the weight listed on the tag of a couple different step-through bicycles, and they were all somewhere around 17 kg. These are not light bicycles! However, they come complete with lights, a rear rack, and a basket. They are very much utility bicycles. And everyone cycles! Right from children to the elderly, everyone was on a bicycle. Some had new step-through bicycles, and some had quite obviously old step-through bicycles. It was nice to see so many people on bicycles."

And this:
"From the cyclist's perspective, the canal routes are ideal for a tour. There are signs all along the way to let the canal boats know where they can dock, and where they can replenish their supplies. And of course, that information is very useful for cyclists as well. When we arrived at a docking area, we discovered that they had maps into the towns to help us find the grocery stores, and they had fresh water, so we were able to refill our bottles along the way"

Admittedly this was a nice touch:
"The other thing was the utility nature of the bicycle. Several people parked their bicycles outside the store, shopped, and came out carrying all sorts of groceries and household supplies. They dropped them into the baskets on their bicycles and rode off. One rode off carrying a utensil tray and a broom, among other things. In North America cyclists discuss the pros and cons of commuting, and of using our bicycles for things like grocery shopping at great length. We debate the best way to carry our goods if we were to shop, and how to lock our bicycles, and what to wear while carrying out our grocery shopping, and so on. In Europe, it seems like half the people own a utility bicycle with a basket and a big lock, and they use their bicycles in much the same way that North Americans use their cars ... as a matter of course."

But this is a bit unnerving:
"But right in the middle of a market square we were accosted by a gang of street urchins on bicycles! Not one of them would have been older than about 12, but they started pushing and shoving us, and shouting at us. They rode into our panniers and nearly knocked us off our bicycles. What a welcome! At first, none of the adults in the area did anything, but eventually one older girl (late teens/early twenties) came over and started screaming at the kids ... then some men came over and kind of herded the kids away. They checked to see if we were OK, then helped us on our way with some directions to the hostel."

But overall, you only barely discussed "the issues that cyclists face in Europe;" your third paragraph (posted above) probably discusses the issues the most. Can you elaborate on this travelogue with your impressions of how you were treated in traffic, how the roads and signs and even traffic signals might have been different than that which one may find in North America? How about the attitude of others you met (other than... "Gee, is that a randonneur bike?") How about a contrast between Germany and London... Did you see any significant difference in the way you were treated as a cyclist in either area?

Oh and a side note... the Brooks Saddle comment is funny... I too would have thought them easier to find in the UK... however, who would want to break in a Brooks saddle on a long tour... best done in small rides first over a period of time... then they are excellent.
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Old 02-01-08, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
But overall, you only barely discussed "the issues that cyclists face in Europe;" your third paragraph (posted above) probably discusses the issues the most. Can you elaborate on this travelogue with your impressions of how you were treated in traffic, how the roads and signs and even traffic signals might have been different than that which one may find in North America? How about the attitude of others you met (other than... "Gee, is that a randonneur bike?") How about a contrast between Germany and London... Did you see any significant difference in the way you were treated as a cyclist in either area?

Oh and a side note... the Brooks Saddle comment is funny... I too would have thought them easier to find in the UK... however, who would want to break in a Brooks saddle on a long tour... best done in small rides first over a period of time... then they are excellent.

My website is NOT meant to be a commentary on cycling advocacy ... although in this particular log, I did try to mention a few of the interesting cycling-related things I noticed, including a picture or two of how the traffic signals differed from those I've seen in NA.

All I said in my post (#11) was that I enjoyed cycling in France ... in response to Prendrefeu's ambition to move to France (Post #1). I thought perhaps some bits of information from our travels there might interest him.

And I think Rowan knows what he is doing when it comes to Brooks saddles and long rides. He has some experience in those matters and had no trouble at all with it.

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Old 02-01-08, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Machka View Post
My website is NOT meant to be a commentary on cycling advocacy ... although in this particular log, I did try to mention a few of the interesting cycling-related things I noticed, including a picture or two of how the traffic signals differed from those I've seen in NA.

All I said in my post (#11) was that I enjoyed cycling in France ... in response to Prendrefeu's ambition to move to France (Post #1). I thought perhaps some bits of information from our travels there might interest him.

And I think Rowan knows what he is doing when it comes to Brooks saddles and long rides. He has some experience in those matters and had no trouble at all with it.
I understand, and indeed it was a nice travelogue... with great pics. But you did present it as part of a thread regarding "dealing with the same issues in Europe."

As for the Brooks... reminds me of buying new hiking boots the day before attempting the Pacific Crest Trail. That is certainly Rowan's choice.

Now really what do you think of the differences between European cycling and what one may face in North America? Did you for instance find any attitude difference in the motorists?

I for one found it interesting that there are bike lanes in France, that cyclists do indeed do group rides, and that helmets do not seem to be popular over there. I also agree with your general comment that in places people readily hop on bikes much the same way that folks in the US jump in the car... for even minor errands. I also found it interesting that Paris had special stop lights just for bikes... a rare item in the US. (do they exist at all in the US??)
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Old 02-02-08, 04:43 AM
  #24  
cyclezealot
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Here are two websites about those interested in EU and or French cycling. Not sure what kind of group rides you are referring to. Just in our area alone we have 32 bike clubs in a department of only like 500,000 people. Almost each town has a bike club.

https://www.ecf.com/83_1

https://www.ffct.org/index.htm
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Old 02-02-08, 01:30 PM
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I lived for a year in Greece in 1988-89, mostly in Athens. I did a fair amount of biking there and it was definately one of the most dangerous things I have ever done. I was fortunate to not have an incident where I had to test the legal system there. Overall, motorists attitudes towards cyclists here in the northeastern US are not the greatest, but they far exceed what I had experienced in Greece.
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