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Dutch customs




Afgesloten — "road closed" in downtown Amsterdam



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

Canal-side roads in central Amsterdam are about 4 meters wide, bordered by steel posts, and often blocked unceremoniously by construction crews, household movers, or just a delivery van.

These roads are concentric — they're curved. A motorist cannot see if a road is blocked until he or she becomes part of the blockage, and visible from behind. Those who follow decide whether to go into reverse if that's still possible.

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....