Cause And Effect

23/06/2009 08:41 by Amsterdamize

Last Friday morning a 12-year-old boy named Boris was fatally hit by a truck turning left on Marnixstraat, not far from where Lauren got caught in the tram rails.

Reports tell us that Boris had stepped off his bike (on the right side of the road, on the bike lane), waiting to cross the junction (to his left), when the truck driver, who was turning left from the opposite side, overlooked him and ran him over. Boris died shortly after.

Flick photo by @ikbendaf

Flick photo by @ikbendaf

There are very few fatal incidents in Amsterdam, so this particular one immediately grabbed the public’s attention. Not just that, but more importantly the ire of the people living on that street and the schools close by, people who also knew Boris.

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This long street and its intersections have always been considered ‘tricky’, ‘hazardous’ and often outright dangerous, specially for children and the elderly, as they accommodate so many modes of traffic in a very dense residential neighborhood, without real traffic calming measures.

Here trams, city buses, taxis, cars, mopeds, bicycles, pedestrians all have to share a limited road grid (which is often the case throughout Amsterdam), but the Marnixstraat (and square, where the accident happened) setup has been controversial for years. Actually, one Neighborhood Action Committee member (interviewed by the local TV station AT5) will tell you that this street has caused problems for decades and that they have been trying to have the city change this dangerous situation since 1983, to no avail until 2002, when the city council promised to handle it…

You guessed it, no such thing happened and here we have the result. Sure, political party officials have rushed to the cameras to express their outrage, but nobody will take their pleas seriously until actual improvements are made.

One could argue it’s unfair to judge it this way. Accidents like this one are statistically insignificant compared to the overall. It’s a good and valid point. But let’s zoom in on this: the point here is that of the few fatal bicycle accidents that happen each year, this particular kind is the most dominant one. Just a day earlier a tourist from the US was killed on her rental bike by a cement truck turning the corner. Very unfortunate and again the consequences of a truck driver’s blind spot.

Flickr photo by @ikbendaf

Flickr photo by @ikbendaf

Meanwhile, people of the neighborhood and from elsewhere (also through Twitter), showing support, got together and made a desperate statement by painting a zebra crossing where there should’ve been one in the first place. Just one of many more much needed measures.

Flickr photo by @ikbendaf

Flickr photo by @ikbendaf

Boris’ dad pleaded with the city council to do something about this situation, so others don’t suffer the same consequences and hopefully his death will not be in vain.

Me? I’ve always taken that intersection for granted, knowing my way around it, etc, but it did occur to me it was an ugly duckling compared to Amsterdam’s general level of infrastructure. Now I feel embarrassed about the backdrop of this horrible story and saddened by the thought of how easy (and early on) this kind of risk could have been dealt with.

Let’s see if our Amsterdam elders are really listening this time…

PS: the police officer in the ending of this video is having a discussion with one of the people painting the zebra crossing and ironically points to the fact that ‘they don’t have a permit to do this’, as ‘there are liabilities and building codes involved’. Uhm, yeah, well….doh!!!!


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