truly, madly, deeply

April 27th, 2006

disturbed. (Yes, I've taken a leaf out of Ash's blog and opened with a song title.) Disturbed at how ridiculously seriously (how do you like the double adverb?) people take the biking regulations in this town. I've known it from day one of my biking here that I would eventually get in trouble for not paying much attention to the make belief, fairy tale rules they try to enforce on bikers.

  • Biking in the city center. Fine.
  • Biking at night without a light. Fine.
  • Biking at night wtih just a front light. Fine.
  • Biking on the pedestrian sidewalk. Fine.
  • Running a red light (not the real traffic light, the little bike lights for kids) across an intersection where there's no traffic because a) there are no cars in sight or b) everyone is waiting for a green light for 3 minutes. Fine.

I've committed all of those heinous crimes. And then there's cops. Lots of cops. Walking the beat, in cars, on bikes even. It never bothered me to see cops in the past, I wouldn't see them often but when I did, they were just cops. Now I live with a fear that I'm gonna get a fine for biking. It hasn't happened, but at any time I see a cop when I'm on my bike, I immediately take stock of the situation "am I in violation of some mickey mouse rule right now?". Often I am, like biking down one street at night without a light (I always forget to take them) and a police car goes past me. But then at the end of the street, the light turns red, the car stops. By the time it will turn green, I will already be there too, so what if they notice then that I'm not using a light? So I turned back, went the opposite way.

The number of lives I've put in jeopardy due to my 'reckless' biking? 0. The number of people I've injured? 0.

Today I was off to the supermarket, I unlock my bike outside my house, get on it, ride for half a block and I see 3 wannabe cops approaching me. They're not real cops, they just write parking tickets. I pass them and one of them waves at me. "What's this, are they pulling me over to check my papers, is this Soviet Russia?" But they didn't stop walking, the woman waved at me and kept walking. I look back at them, the guy makes a gesture. I stop and try to find out what's going on. He starts talking in Dutch. I ask him to say it in English, he keeps on talking. I look at him point blank like what he's saying does not even sound like a real language. Then he says something about Engels to the woman and the 3 of them form a task force to squeeze out a sentence in English. "You are not allowed to bike on the sidewalk, you have to go in the street." They saw me unlock my bike, get on it and bike for 200m tops, this is where they choose to lecture me? I *was* going in the street, but since this particular stretch of street is trafficed, it makes more sense from a safety point of view to merge in further ahead. I didn't try to explain this as I think it would be lost on them, but in this particular case there's a sidewalk and a street, with no marking on it even, no section for bikes. No biker sidewalk either. Nor was there anyone on the sidewalk either, I guess the parking ticket people want to make sure they have the sidewalk all to themselves.

Narcotics and prostitution are both legal in this country, what the hell for? It doesn't affect me in the least, just like it never did before I got here. Make those illegal again and let me bike freely, you nazis.

:: random entries in this category ::

5 Responses to "truly, madly, deeply"

  1. erik says:

    Sounds like you ran into "Stadswachters" (City guards). They never followed the same courses as police officers. Their jobs were invented by the government in the 1990s to tackle unemployment. The idea was that you can dress up unemployed people with no education and make them walk around the city in something that resembles a uniform. Meanwhile they make everybody's lives miserable. I can't begin to tell you about the thousands of times I've run into them... Gah

    At least in Middelburg, the city council hasn't given them any authority beyond handing out warnings and calling the real police. So they can't give you a fine. Result: Erik is loving the ignoring-game.

  2. numerodix says:

    Oh really? That's good news :D I thought they were the parking attendance and so since there were 3 of them, I was thinking they can write 3 tickets in parallell, could be trouble. :D

    Their uniforms said "Toe.." something.

  3. erik says:

    [2] "Toezichthouders"? Yeah, that's them alright. Alternative versions are "Stadwachters" and "Wijkagenten"

    Don't take them seriously :D

  4. ash says:

    Ah... I thought "Fine" was meaning "ok", not the other kind of fine. I was a bit confused for a moment then.

  5. numerodix says:

    I knew you would catch on eventually :D