Where’s a GPS when you need it?
Everyone seems to have a GPS device in their car these days. You look across at the driver next to you and they have this tiny TV thing stuck to their windscreen. In the UK, driving while using a cell phone is illegal and attracts a hefty fine, unless you are talking on a hands-free kit, but even that is coming under scrutiny and may be outlawed one day. So if it is considered dangerous to drive while talking on the phone, how can it be fine to drive while watching TV? Because, let’s face it, that is exactly what you are doing when you take your eyes off the road to follow the arrow on the little screen of your satellite navigation entertainment system. (more…)
Living in Holland has many advantages, the most obvious of which is the fact that it is so easy to use a bicycle–and almost everyone does. People here learn to “fiets” (cycle) before they can walk and indeed the Dutch seem happiest when they are moving at speed atop at least one set of wheels. The only thing they like more than this is to ice skate, preferably on natural ice, and for distances measured using Astronomical Units.
The government in the Netherlands knows that the only reason the country’s road network is not one giant car park is because so many people use their bikes, and so they build bicycle lanes next to or on every road. In fact the rule here is that, when it comes to accidents between bikes and cars, the cyclist is automatically assumed to be innocent. As you can imagine, this makes cycling here very attractive. It can, however, lead to some people taking advantage. It is not uncommon to see people cycling four abreast in the middle of the road, or cruising across a blind intersection without even bothering to look. The worrying thing is that motorists here are either ignorant of the rules of the road, or they don’t care. In theory, there should be carnage on every street corner. I have a few ideas about this, but more on that some other time.
Hoog inspecting the gate on his farm, which is used by the government to make sure the country is level.
The other reason why cycling in the Netherlands is so easy is because the place is flat. The whole country is flatter than a pancake used for target practice by the national Olympic Anvil-Dropping squad. In fact, the highest point in Holland is not a place but a person. Thirty-six year old Hoog van de Langbroek* from Utrecht holds the current title of Highest Point in the Netherlands. At six feet seven inches, Hoog stands a full two inches above sea level and, on a clear day, can be seen from anywhere in the country. A ditch-and-puddle farmer by trade, Hoog is a man of few words. When asked what he thinks of being the custodian of such an important title, his usual response is: “Leuk, he?’” (nice, hey?)