After an hour of theory, some practical manoeuvres on a square, it is time for a trip around Groningen. Foreign students in Groningen have been receiving free cycling lessons as of the beginning of this academic year. Whether it's hilarious or necessary, is point for discussion. Maastricht University hasn’t copied the initiative yet.
Hand signals, giving right of way, stopping at give-way road markings, one-way traffic, detours, et cetera. According to Maastricht student laison officer Paul Vermin, foreign students are “inadequetly or not at all informed about our rules of the road.” The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) in the university city of Groningen thinks so too. This was a reason for the organisation to offer free cycling lessons to foreign newcomers. They are divided up into experienced cyclist and inexperienced cyclists. “Foreign students are not used to being on the right side of the road, they do not indicate directions with their hands or they simply fall off their bicycles,” said Martijn de Ruijter last spring on an NOS news site. When a bus hit a Kazakh student last year, the limit was reached, according to De Ruijter. The course is being paid for by the Groningen city council, the school of higher education and the university.
It’s not that far yet in Maastricht. “We have talked about it, but we realise that it would involve a lot of time and organisation,” was ESN treasurer Michael Wienholz's reaction. “You would have to find someone who could give the training, someone who knows all the rules. That would not be me,” he grins.
The Center for European Studies (CES) informs their exchange students from the University of California about the Dutch rules of the road for cyclists, shortly after their arrival. “Our two-week culture and language course includes a cycling trip,” says Kyra van Leendert. “We have asked the Tourist Office to set out a route and to provide information about where students can have their bicycles repaired and where they can park them, and what rules apply.” It turned out that six of the 26 students couldn’t cycle, says Van Leendert.
Where do things often go wrong? Student liaison officer Paul Vermin: “Roundabouts are difficult because of the right-of-way issue. I always say: be alert. The Brusselsestraat, previously a one-way street, was always a source of annoyance. Students cycled from the Guesthouse on the Brouwersweg down the Brusselsestraat. The city council has now made it a two-way street.”