Roads, calm, respect and community

This is where I sat today for an hour, watching traffic go by, in a pretty central part of Utrecht.

I say this, because one thing about my move to the Netherlands that keeps affecting me every day is the respect and calm of the streets, just like on this bridge, despite this country being densely populated.

Living in Montreal, I felt a lot a stress, anger, and as a cyclist and pedestrian, often some fear. This affected me to an extend I did not realize clearly before this year. I would arrive to the office with rage, adrenaline through the roof. Just thinking about some incidents that would happen on my short 10 minute bike ride to work, I can feel that anger at the pit of my stomach that is too familiar.

In the Netherlands, when I bike on a shared street and there's a car behind me, my first instinct is to expect the driver to be angry at me because I am slowing them down. In Montreal, that was most often the reaction I would get. Here, the car slows down! Oh, and pedestrian crossings are ALWAYS respected...

The roads are not only lighter in traffic thanks to intelligent civil engineer, but relating with other users on the road is done with calm, respect, a sense of community, and a slow, safe pace.

So the point I am getting to is, this calm and safety on the roads boils down to respect of others in our community. The same way we must respect different users, can we respect other cultures, other habits, others colours? Can we practice empathy, put ourselves in the shoes of others, and act in a way that benefits all rather than just ourselves? Can we pay attention to our surroundings and all work together towards our destinations, while taking a nice deep breath? Not only will it be beneficial and supportive for all, but it will also be much more pleasant. A constant feeling of hate, anger and adversity isn't helping anyone.

I don't know if this comparison with shared roads makes any sense, but for me it's been a life changer.

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