ARNHEM – Not allowed, but pretending to call while cycling home in the dark is a popular way to ride bikes “safely.” Police say there are not a number of cyclists being harassed or even assaulted in the dark. “Use common sense,” says one expert.
Fietsersbond investigates insecurity among cyclists in the dark. There are already numbers among young people. More than seven in ten young people sometimes feel unsafe cycling in the dark, according to a survey last year of more than a thousand young people by the youth organization Stichting TeamAlert.
Almost three quarters of them feel insecure in the dark on a bicycle to a greater or lesser extent – this mainly concerns girls. According to TeamAlert, this is partly due to the difference in experience of street harassment. Three-quarters of the girls surveyed occasionally experience street harassment, while only a quarter of the boys surveyed do.
Ask yourself if your fear is real
Mirjam Kampman is a Clinical Psychologist and Anxiety Disorders Specialist at Pro Persona. “First of all, you must ask yourself whether your fear of the dark is real or unreal. But above all, you must use your common sense. Would I advise my girlfriend to take this route in the dark? You cross the street at 6 p.m. or at 11 pm .. “
There is nothing foreign to us, and this also applies to Kampmann. “I have an 18-year-old daughter. I’d rather pick her up late at night than let her ride her bike. But she also says: I don’t want to stop. ”
Women and girls are more emotionally intelligent than the opposite sex, says Emeritus Professor of Clinical Psychology Jan Dirksen from Nijmegen. Dirksen says this leads to healthier behavior by women and girls than by men and boys. But also to worry more. “Boys especially want to be strong, while girls have a better view of reality.”
Go exercise. You can turn it off if something happens to you
According to Dirksen, sports can help girls and young women become more agile in traffic. “This gives you more self-confidence and you can bounce back when you’re faced with something.” Further: “The cycles of an experienced athlete are faster.”
The East Holland Police do not keep records of cyclists who have been harassed or attacked in the dark, according to the spokesperson. “It’s hard,” he says, “because you can write reports and ads under all sorts of things.”
TeamAlert’s study showed that young people bike faster when they feel unsafe in the dark. 78 percent text friends when they get home and 72 percent text before leaving.
Pretending to call
Another action that young people take on the road is the (imaginary) call of the phone to the ear. Although it is forbidden to carry a mobile phone while cycling, many young people do it anyway. There is a fine of €100 (if you have a phone in your hand while riding the bike).
Not only does the fear of being harassed in the dark (or worse) contribute to feelings of insecurity on the bike, but so does the fear of getting into a bike accident. Veilig Verkeer Nederland (VVN) says that two hundred cyclists die in traffic each year. “These are incidents during the day and in the dark,” confirms company spokesman Rob Stompforst. Use common sense, he says. “Is the road I want to ride safe? If there is no other choice, call someone.”
VVN: Cycling with lighting is on the rise
A recent study among cyclists commissioned by the RAI Association showed that about 82 percent use bicycle lights in the dark. “Good numbers,” says Stomphorst, a VVN spokesman, “Our surveys are a bit lower, but it’s still a big percentage. Cycling with lighting is on the rise.”
In 2050, the government hardly wants to kill people in traffic. The goal is no road injuries. How did you achieve this? By behavior, says Stompforst. “Be aware of your own behavior. Inspect your surroundings, and be aware of your speed. But that’s physical safety. In terms of social safety, it might be wise to choose a different route. Or don’t take the bike in the dark.”
Stomphorst also explicitly refers to road authorities, such as municipalities. “They should provide safe roads.”
Draw attention to the lighting
The Domino’s pizza chain sent more than a hundred requests to municipalities for lampposts in 2019. In doing so, it drew attention to greater safety for couriers traveling during the dark winter months. “We are jointly responsible for the safety of pizza delivery drivers and other road users,” a press spokesperson said at the time.