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We have an endemic speed problem


We're many years away from Amsterdam's level of cycling and motoring civility, but in order to close the gap, something has to be done besides installing speed cameras.

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We have an endemic speed problem. Wherever I am, town, village, city, national road or highway, if I don't look at the speedometer and just keep up with the speed of those around me, I'm (largely) speeding. Regardless of whether I'm driving or riding a motorcycle.

I used to be a speed freak, that's a fact. But that was another time in my life. Now I appreciate and value the ride, rather than the time it takes me to get to my destination, even if it is a ride to the usual place.

Bottom, I decided to slow down. And it was when I decided to slow down that I realized this problem existed. Everyone goes too fast. And they complain if you're going under the legal limit, even if it's just over the maximum limit. I have several examples of this every week, because I often pass the Pedrouços viaducts, either to one side or the other. The limit is 20km/h (we're already talking about absurd, idiotic limits, or at least limits that are difficult to understand and have no public justification). I don't comply with this limit, I confess, but even if I do the flyovers at twice the maximum allowed by law (so, 40km/h, which already gives a very nice fine and removes points from the driver's license), I'd say so, if I do the flyovers at twice the maximum speed allowed, I always have someone pulling up behind me and, not infrequently, running lights and even beeping for me to speed up.

Well... when they come up behind me and I'm driving, the problem is relatively easy to solve, isn't it? Because you give the brake a little sniff, even with your left foot, just to turn on the light, and they get the message. They complain, they foam, but they disengage from my rear. 

When I ride a motorcycle, it's a different story, isn't it? They lean against my rear end and if you have a rear end, you're afraid 🙂

They really annoy me. What I usually do is keep my speed up, let them overtake as soon as the viaduct ends, and off they go, in a hurry, speeding up to the traffic lights, at which point I catch up with them.

If they've annoyed me a lot, I'll put the bike in front of them, lower the stand, turn it off and go and talk to them. If they haven't annoyed me too much, I just do things very slowly. And then when they try to overtake me, I let them see the back of me in the distance. They don't look at me anymore.

But it annoys me to feel in danger, because these people not only don't respect the speed limits, they also don't respect the distance you have to keep from the vehicle in front. I have to resume my idea of the paintball.

But to return to the subject... we have an endemic problem with speeding. Just look at the reactions to the installation of new speed cameras. All very angry and shouting "hunt the fine". Well, drive within the limits and you won't get fined. And if you don't agree with the limits, go back and find out what the process is for filing a reasoned and justified complaint.

Because people respect speed cameras... there on Avenida de Ceuta it's a treat, everything goes around 100, until they get close to the camera, then it goes down to 50 (often with hard braking) and then, when they get to the distance where they think they're safe (that "should be fine" distance), everything goes back up to 100 and more.

It doesn't help that many limits are absurd. At the end of the 2nd ring road, there's a moment when the speed goes from 80 to 60 and then back to 50. To this day, I still don't understand why the speed limit is 50. Everything goes at 50 because there's a speed camera, looking at each other like "don't fuck with me, it's safe to go faster here".

I'm very much in favor of lowering the maximum speed limit in many places in cities, from 50 to 30. And I've been in favor of this for a relatively short time. Ever since I rode my bike in Amsterdam.

The kid lives in Amsterdam. When he went there, he told me straight away that he was only going to ride his bike (that's what he used to do here), and I was scared, of course. Because I'm a mother, so fear is a basic condition, but also because I ride a motorcycle in traffic here (even if it is a little bigger than the scooters) and I know how dangerous it is. 

And then I rode my bike there and rested. Just a little. Because there are fewer cars. And because they go slower. And because they respect cyclists. In fact, I've had more problems with cyclists than with cars (cycling isn't my thing). 

We're many years away from Amsterdam's level of cycling and motoring civility, but in order to close the gap, something has to be done besides installing speed cameras.

There's no point in lowering the maximum speed limit if no one respects it.

I don't know how to solve this. Improve people's training when they get their license? It would have to start with the instructors. Making people aware of empathy? To think of others? Learning not to cut corners. Learning to slow down in contexts where speed poses a danger to others (motorcycles, bicycles, scooters, pedestrians). 

But how do you teach this, if fast and in a hurry is the default everyone?

Article originally published on the blog Jonasnuts.

Maria João Nogueira

I've always been involved in advertising, communication and the management of community services, or user generated content and social media services. First in advertising agencies, then at Terràvista and later at SAPO. In 2017, she founded a company through which she provides consultancy and training services in communication and digital strategy and in anticipating and managing online reputation crises. She is actively involved in causes related to digital citizenship, Internet defense and animal causes. She can easily be found at @jonasnuts on social media.View Author posts

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