[By Alex van Veen] – “This is a very dangerous crossing.” The man, smartly dressed and carrying a briefcase, made his comment to various bystanders behind the police tape. Earlier, an accident had taken place at the crossing of the Ceintuurbaan and the Tweede Sweelinckstraat. Two boys were seriously injured.
The incident took place on Tuesday 24 November at about 7 pm. The victims were speeding on a scooter not wearing a helmet and were hit by a turning car. As a result of the heavy impact, the boys were launched, hit a two-meter high safety mirror and landed against a dustbin. The trauma team arrived to provide medical assistance.
Both witnesses of the accident and passers-by who joined them later agreed that the crossing has an extremely unsafe feel to it ever since the fazed reconstruction of the Ceintuurbaan in 2008. Contrary to other crossings at the Ceintuurbaan, this one has no traffic lights. Cyclists and pedestrians who want to cross the ring road are confronted with seven distinct streams of traffic: pedestrians, cyclists / mopeds, cars, trams/taxis, cars, cyclists / mopeds and pedestrians.
The victims of the accident had been on the bicycle path parallel to the Ceintuurbaan near the Tweede Sweelinckstraat and were riding towards the Amstelbrug. The motorist who hit them was riding on the Ceintuurbaan in the same direction, but turned right into the Tweede Sweelinckstraat. The motorist could not see traffic on the bicycle path because his view was obstructed by parked cars, located between the bicycle path and the road since the reconstruction.
The front of the last parked car is in line with the alignment of the houses at the Tweede Sweelinckstraat (see picture of van), so it comes as no surprise that the view of both cyclists / scooters and turning motorists is blocked. True, a safety mirror has been placed for cars last year – incidentally, at an idiotic location, resulting in cyclists colliding with it – but as soon as it’s dark, one sees almost nothing.
That last parking place should be removed immediately. Therefore, I decided to call the Traffic Department of the Oud-Zuid District. The general information number 14020 introduced by the municipality over three years ago is still a disaster, it turns out. Over ten minutes and various operators later, I was connected with someone at the Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure Department, but this person only deals with traffic lights, so that was no use.
After consulting the directory, I called a direct number of the district, and a friendly lady connected me with an official of the Traffic Department within a minute. The man knew about the ‘infamous crossing’, but denied that the parking spaces reach the alignment of the houses at the Tweede Sweelinckstraat. He had not heard about the accident earlier that week. He was willing to visit the site with me, and to my surprise the meeting could take place as early as the next Monday.
The official soon agreed that the last parking space creates disproportionate risks and should be removed. He did not answer my question why this had not been done as part of the reconstruction. The official promised to prepare a traffic decision, which neighbourhood residents can object to. He assured me that there would likely be protests, since the Ceintuurbaan residents value the parking spaces in front of their doors. However, since the safety of traffic participants is at stake, it should be possible to go ahead, he said, although it may take as much as half a year to remove this single parking space.
We talked a bit more about what else should be done about the unsafety of the crossing. The absence of traffic lights is a consequence of the interests of public transportation operator GVB, which sees its trams confronted with all too frequent stops along the Ceintuurbaan because of red lights. “They simply want free circulation,” he said. This struck me as an unreasonable standpoint, especially since taxis also use the tram track, considerably increasing the risks for people crossing the street. And all other crossings at the Ceintuurbaan in the De Pijp neighbourhood do have traffic lights.
Weary of life
Traffic participants who want to cross the road, have to do so in phases, the Traffic official said. I pointed to the dangerously narrow refuge between the two tram tracks, which is generally filled with cyclists. “The safest thing is to cross the road using the zebra crossing, for cyclists as well,” he responded. The man was serious. Was he not aware that it is precisely the zebra crossing that is the unsafest way to cross the street? People who use it generally wait until the street is clear of traffic, they are not weary of life.
“Can the zebra crossing not be announced more clearly, for example with a lighted sign above the street, instead of a silly little sign placed in between the tram tracks which no-one sees,” I wanted to know. The official thought the suggestion made sense, but I did not get the impression that he wanted to pursue this. Perhaps a question of money? The speed ramps will soon be raised, he said. That would slow down cars, making crossing the street less risky.
I mentioned the safety mirror now missing as a result of the accident. “Who’s going to get that mirror replaced?” For at the time of our meeting, four days after the accident, there was still no sight of a new mirror. It will have to be reported first, he said. “Surely the police will have done so, I should hope?” Two weeks after the accident, the mirror has been replaced. Now we have to wait for the single parking space to be removed. Perhaps the lighted sign announcing the zebra crossing will also arrive some day.