Bicycle role model Barbie — Dutch, of course

For many, signaling which way you are turning while on a bicycle is second nature. Lloyd has aptly criticized the way in which bicyclists are expected to signal (since the customs — in North America, at least — come from hand signals that were designed for drivers). However, the simple fact remains: it's safer for everyone if bicyclists signal which way they are turning when they are turning.

Some Dutch Barbies agree. And it seems that they favor the way in which I prefer to signal — by placing my right arm out when turning right and placing my left arm out when turning left. Have a look:

© Bicycle Dutch

© Bicycle Dutch

You're probably wondering what the deal is with these Barbie dolls. Who put them there? That's apparently what thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of Dutch bicyclists were wondering when they ran across 10 of them at the busiest intersection in Utrecht, Holland. Approximately 22,000 bicyclists roll through that intersection each day.

And that dense bicycle traffic is what triggered the Barbie invasion.

At busy intersections in the Netherlands, there's typically an "all bikes on green" light. The first few times you go through such an intersection can be nerve-racking, but than you get the hang of it and realize it's not that hard to avoid crashing into each other. However, at such a busy intersection, if people aren't indicating in which direction they are going, things can surely get a bit confusing and perhaps even messy. It seems that one bicyclist had simply had enough of that.

A few days after the Barbie dolls took their posts as traffic controllers, 25-year-old Marije de Wit, "an artist and computer games designer," according to Bicycle Dutch, wrote on her blog Mapije:

That junction is always such a chaos. It struck me that many people forget to signal when they are going left or right. Annoying and it also leads to people riding against each other. They teach you to do it right in primary school but over the years you get sloppy. I too forget sometimes.

But to point out mistakes to people, that usually doesn’t work well. That’s why I wanted to help people remember in a friendly and fun way that they should indicate where they’re going. And so I placed 10 Barbie dolls sticking out their arm in the night of the 25th and 26th March 2012.

Why Barbie?

Quite frankly I needed something with an arm! Something friendly that we all know. And she has the right size. Big enough to be noticed and small enough to not be in the way.

The act did reportedly get more people signaling. Though, not everyone respected the Barbie activism. And some might have genuinely been confused or taken it as a simple joke. The blogger over at Bicycle Dutch, which is where I ran across this, first thought the Barbies were encouraging him to consider things a bit more philosophically:

Some days ago I waited for a traffic light in the center of Utrecht and suddenly looked into the eyes of a Barbie doll sitting on top of the light. She held one arm out and a sign below her said ‘Which way are you going?’

I should have understood the doll meant that quite literally but I thought she wanted me to think about my life…

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Tags: Biking | Netherlands

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