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Dutch customs

Afgesloten — "road closed" in downtown Amsterdam

Bicycle courier visits with a friend loading tables and chairs at the end of the "patio season"

Canal-side roads in Amsterdam, about thirteen feet (4 meters) wide and bordered by steel posts, are often blocked unceremoniously by construction crews, household movers — sometimes just a delivery van. The only options for a driver who comes upon a blocked road are to wait, or to go into reverse.

A business delivery will entail a few minutes' wait for backed-up traffic while the staff unloads goods — usually at a leisurely pace. The plumber's van may sit shopfront for the afternoon. The crane, set up on stabilizing legs and lifting construction materials to the rooftop, is going to be there for the day

But, amazingly, there is never a "road closed" sign. There is no indication — back at the intersection, for example — that the way is blocked.

What happens is that cars enter and stop, and become backed up. If the nature of the obstruction is not obvious, a driver in one of the frontmost cars will get out and ask. If the delay will be great, he or she will signal to the drivers behind — and one or more of them may get out and relay the signal further backward. There may be eight or ten cars backed up. They must all reverse and re-enter the cross-street backwards, to go find an alternate route.

And then it starts again....

  — Autumn 2000

A factor that I neglected to mention when I wrote this page is that the city-center Amsterdam canalside streets are concentric — they're curved. One is often unable to see far enough to determine whether or not a road is open.