It’s midday, and you’ve just finished your last midterm. You feel like a king. The exam was dreadful, but you’ve already forgotten about it: you’re finally free! You’re on your way to get some food from the takeaway in town. You turn the corner, stop… gasp. You’re confused. You see red. What the fabric is that there for?
You’ve encountered a red carpet that has been rolled out along the pavement. Yes, a red carpet. They’re dotted around all over Groningen, guiding people into shops and takeaways. People walk over them like they’re royalty, but not for the reasons that you think!
The red carpets in Groningen are not to make people feel special, or to cover last night’s sick, or to make the street seem slightly more appealing. To capitalist-conspiracy nut-jobs, the carpets are there to charm oblivious customers into shops. As per usual with Dutch design, the carpets are, in fact, much more practical.
The red carpets are simply there to stop kakkers from parking on the pavement, which is why people stride over them as if they’re kings. It’s because, in a way, they are: it’s a safe zone. They can’t be touched!
The carpets are placed along areas of town where, if bikes were left up on the pavement, pedestrians would be in danger of being pushed out onto the road (as if carpets are the solution to preventing pedestrian injuries in Groningen – move the crossings away from junctions!!). In fact, these carpet cause accidents, as poor Beatrix recently found out.
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Therefore, it is with regret that I must inform you that you are not as special as you thought. The red carpet wasn’t rolled out just for you. There are no cameras hanging around to pap your baps or snap your flaps, so any nip-slips or tip-flips will go completely unnoticed.
Local Groningers firmly believe that the red carpets are efficient. ‘It’s a win-win situation,’ says Tapijt Minnaar. ‘Pedestrians can walk normally on the pavement, and the bikers can bike without having to then avoid people that have been pushed out onto the road!’ Although, in Groningen, I reminded him, such a road/pavement distinction is as non-existent as a pedestrian’s right-of-way…
I’m still sceptical of the effectiveness of the carpets. But, if one thing’s for certain, it’s that these carpets really tie the town together, do they not?