In the Netherlands, if you want to arrive at the other side of the road before the pedestrian traffic light turns red, you must be sure to start walking as soon as the light turns green, and fast. Don’t even think about checking your phone while you wait, or the possibility of something falling out of your bag while you walk; every second counts when crossing the street!
Illustration Henk van Ruitenbeek
To be honest, it took me a long time to realise that the traffic light stays green for pedestrians for an incredibly short time. This is probably because in the Netherlands, starting to use the bicycle is like getting your first car elsewhere: it normally implies that you stop walking to get anywhere and go by bike instead.
I was in Amsterdam, where I was doing much more walking than I do in Wageningen, when I first noticed that Dutch efficiency was reflected even in the traffic lights. I was really surprised by how briefly the light is green, so I started taking notice of it in other places, included Wageningen. In fact, I was checking it out on almost all my limited walks, doing a kind of experiment. That allowed me to observe not only that the green light is indeed on for a very short time, but also that Dutch people were remarkably faster when crossing the street. It was quite easy to distinguish them from tourists in the big cities, as they were almost the only ones who could successfully cross the street while the green light was on.
So next time you walk somewhere, I encourage you to observe the efficiency of Dutch traffic lights for yourself!
Melania González Torres, BSc student of Biology, from Spain
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