Dangerous business: biking in Groningen

You would have thought international students would know how to ride a bike. They have bikes at home, don’t they? However, they still get caught up in accidents – or near accidents – far too often. ‘I reacted like a deer caught in the headlights.’

Groningen is extremely busy for cyclists. The Zernike road map was adapted in 2011, after a student from Kazakhstan was almost killed in an accident, but international students still fear for their lives on an almost daily basis.

According to Lisa Ziemann, a American Studies student from Germany, sharing the cycle lane with scooters is really confusing and dangerous. She also almost had an accident. She and two of her friends were at the Oude Ebbingestraat and Turfsingel junction.

Lisa recalls: ‘I was engrossed in thought and was approaching the junction rather fast, not realizing that I would eventually have to stop to give way to cars coming from the left. In the middle of the road, finally noticing the approaching car, I reacted like a deer caught in the headlights; I just didn’t know if I should move or not.’ Relieved, she adds: ‘Thanks to the cautious driver I wasn’t hurt and no damage was caused.’

Look left and right. Twice.

Aleksandra Rzepny, International and European Law student from Poland, wasn’t as lucky. She didn’t notice a car while crossing the Boterdiep and neither she nor the driver was able to brake in time. At first, it seemed as if nothing was damaged, but the next day revealed the truth. ‘It turned out the front wheel was…well, it didn’t look like a wheel anymore. I took it to a bike shop in the hope of having it repaired, but I was told the repair would probably cost more than a new bike.’

Even worse, not only was Aleksandra’s bike ruined, she also suffered a huge bruise on her right leg.

Tom Akkerman, a student courier working for Cycloon Fietskoeriers, knows the traffic in Groningen very well. ‘It’s difficult to cycle safely through Groningen.’

Buses are coming

He advises: ‘Always look around you, so that you’re aware of your surroundings. It’s better to look to your left and right twice if you’re crossing a road. I always look and also use my ears to check if there are any cars or buses coming.’

Knowing that many international students are uneasy about cycling in Groningen, he adds: ‘Don’t be scared. Groningen is a busy city, but most people know what they’re doing.’