01 December 2012

Can't I Just Take the Train?

I had to drive to Brussels for work yesterday. In general, I do not like driving. Here in the Netherlands it's not too terrible because the roads are good and people are nice and left turns are protected. In Germany the drivers are very aggressive and left turns are not protected.  In Belgium the drivers are aggressive, left turns are not protected and the roads are not as well maintained.   I am not an aggressive driver. Even if I'm first at the serpentine I let the oncoming driver through first. I have no "need for speed" so the higher speed limits here are not really of interest for me. I have no problem driving 30kph (20mph) through residential areas and even less if there are bikes (being a bike commuter I'm very conscious of driving gently near them and giving them the right of way).  I'm happy to sit in the right lane with the cruise control on maintaining a constant speed that is ideal for gas mileage.

That doesn't work so well on the freeway in Belgium. The speed limit is 120kph (approx 76mph). The right lane is full of big trucks topping out at about 90kph (around 55mph). I'd be comfortable with that except that it means spending more time sitting in the car and that's not comfortable for me. In the left lane are the people who want to go much faster than the 120 limit. If there are other drivers like me there certainly aren't very many. If you want to pass the big trucks you're going to end up with a very angry Belgian riding your bumper (there does not appear to be a "safe following distance" here) and flashing their lights at you to move to the right lane; even if you're doing 120.  Never mind that even if you could squeeze your car into that space in the right lane, it would require slamming on your breaks as soon as you did because, again, that lane is only going 90. If you don't move, the car behind you comes closer (how is that even possible?!?) and flashes more furiously.  I arrived in Brussels thoroughly stressed.  I just simply do not like it.

Then there was the knowledge that I had to do it again to get home.  By the time I got home all I could do was curl up and take a nap and my head hurt for the rest of the day. I'm so glad I can commute to work by bike, walk to the grocery store and take the train to most places I want to visit. When I moved back over here 2 years ago I was rather saddened to see such an increase in the number of cars and the amount of driving from 20 years ago.  I don't know where my next project will be but it will either be here, in Belgium or in Germany.  Wherever it is, I will be picking a house that allows me to walk, bike or take public transportation to work. I'm just not cut out to be a car commuter here.


  1. I agree! I am a slow going kind of gal. I learned how to drive in Atlanta, now when I visit there the traffic totally stresses me out :/ We can bike to many local stores and parks from our home (kid bike seat & trailer attached!).
    By the way, we recieved a wonderful package yesterday, THANK YOU so very much!!

    1. Angela--It's great that you can ride to nearby places. I've never seen a tyke bike with training wheels here and I've seen some pretty teeny tots riding 2-wheelers. Seems that they learn much faster without the training wheels. Makes me wonder why every kid in the US uses them.