Walk this way: Spijkenisse launches ‘silly walks’ zebra crossing

Why did the Spijkenisser cross the road? Who knows, but the real question is whether or not the walk was silly enough. In what is believed to be a world first, the town of Spijkenisse near Rotterdam has unveiled an official sign asking pedestrians to cross the road in a comic way. The town council has rebranded a zebra crossing with signs inviting members of the public to bring out their best Monty Python steps, in a tribute to the famous John Cleese sketch. Aloys Bijl, a local civil servant, told the AD that he had suggested the idea after hearing about a similarly silly crossing in Sweden. Hoera, het #sillywalk oversteekbord is geplaatst @gemNissewaard this Dutch town Spijkenisse has a #sillywalk crossing @JohnCleese come and see ! @RTV_Rijnmond pic.twitter.com/8RcmuMvivS — Jacco van Giessen (@jaccovangiessen) October 18, 2018 Jan Willem Mijmans, head of outdoor space at Gemeente Nissewaard, added that the stunt aimed to cheer people up but if it ‘ran wild’ and threatened road safety, then the silly walk sign would be modified. He told the NOS broadcaster: ‘It’s fun to see people cross with a smile and we hope that a lot of people will do it.’ Officials stressed that vehicles at the busy crossing will be expected to stop when a pedestrian places a foot on the zigzag, however straight or crookedly. Similar but unofficial road signs put up by an art collective in a small town in Sweden were criticised by the country’s government roads agency but reportedly not frowned upon by the local mayor. The 1970 Monty Python sketch involving a fictitious ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ is known as a comedy classic, and is also referenced in images on a 125-metre underpass in Eindhoven and a Zondag met Lubach spoof tourism video.      More >

Book containing fake PM speech withdrawn

A book containing 50 of the ‘most touching, best and most inspiring Dutch speeches’ has been removed from the shelves because a speech attributed to former CDA leader and prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende proved to be a fake, Trouw reports. The speech, in which Balkenende speaks nostalgically about the days of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), is in fact a satire published on a left wing activist website in 2006, the paper discovered. Jan-Peter Balkenende who is now a professor of Governance, Institutions and Internationalisation at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam, was prime minister from 2002 to 2010. In 2006 he often referred to the ‘VOC mentality’, praising Dutch derring-do but ignoring the exploitation and slavery the Dutch trading company brought to what is now Indonesia. ‘I dream a little of the Golden Age sometimes,’ Balkenende said at the time. ‘The century when this small country worked its way to the top unaided.’ He later apologised for the remarks. Alarm bells did not go off for historian Denise Parengkuan, who compiled the speeches, when she came across the following: ‘It (the VOC) shows what a small country can do. (..) Our heroes from those days Jan Pieterszoon Coen and Michiel de Ruyter had that business instinct, that drive, that VOC mentality of taking what you want (..) They offered many natives new challenges, in the land that we developed for them or in the hereafter.’ Parengkuan admitted she ‘had not checked the speech properly’, Trouw writes. This is not the first time the fake speech has been taken at face value. A recent book on Dutch history, Tot hier en nu verder’ (Until now and beyond) by journalist Cees van Lotringen also contained quotes from the speech and had to be pulped as well. Publisher of the speech book Hans van Maar of Just Publishers told Trouw he was very disappointed. ‘We were very proud of this book. It seems the author did not check the facts. That puts the rest of the books in doubt as well and that is why we have withdrawn it,’ the paper quotes him as saying. The former prime minister, who was offered an apology and a bunch of flowers by the publisher, did not wish to comment, Trouw writes.  More >

New rules for cosmetic treatment ads

Dutch cosmetic surgeons and other aesthetic medicine practitioners have drawn up new rules for advertising which ban misleading ads, those guaranteeing certain results and adverts aimed at minors. The Dutch Foundation for Aesthetic Medicine drew up the rules after former health minister Edith Schippers said clients should be made properly aware of the risks attached to cosmetic surgery 'in simple, clear language'. The new rules have been adopted by the Dutch Advertising Commission, which will deal with any complaints about misinformation. Current health minister Bruno Bruins told the ANP that he welcomed the new development. 'Medical cosmetic treatment is never risk free,' he said. 'It is important that people are properly informed.'   More >

Thousands drive without a valid licence

Dutch driving licence specimen Thousands of people are still driving around in the Netherlands despite being given a driving ban, either for drink and drugs offences or because they are no longer considered safe on the road, broadcaster NOS said on Friday. In 2016, some 5,000 people who were banned from driving did not hand back their driving licence to the issuing authority CBR, figures from the agency show. While not everyone who has been banned from driving still gets behind the wheel, the police stop an average of 3,000 people a year who do not have a valid licence, NOS said. Repeat offenders fine of up to €8,300, or a prison term of three months.   More >

Drunk coach driver removed from road

A coach driver who was stopped by police while driving a bus full of people because he was driving dangerously had almost four times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, RTV Oost reported on Thursday. A passing driver had warned the police about the bus, which was driving on a closed motorway lane on the A1 near Almelo. Police caught up with the bus and forced it off the motorway, where they made the driver take a breathalyser test. He was later found to have blood alcohol level of 1.8, when the legal limit is 0.5. The passengers were on their way to a works party at the time of the incident. The driver was forced to hand over his driving licence and spend a night in the cells.   More >

Undercover police helped bust terror cell

The arrest of a seven-member suspected terrorist cell last month was partly down to an undercover police officer who befriended the group over a period of several months, the NRC and RTL reported on Thursday. In addition, the undercover policeman, who first approached the gang's alleged leader by email, supplied weapons to the gang, which had been made safe, the papers said. The seven men from Arhem and Weert were remanded in custody earlier this week while the investigation continues. Police said at the time of the arrests they had foiled a major terrorist attack but it remains unclear what event the gang was planning to disrupt. The department began an investigation into the 34-year-old man they suspect to have led the cell in April, following a tip-off from the AIVD security service. The AIVD said the man, an Iraqi national, had been planning an attack at a major event in the Netherlands with the aim of creating as many victims as possible. ‘The plan may have involved jackets packed with explosives and Kalashnikovs at an event and a car bomb elsewhere. The investigation into the exact target is still ongoing,’ the public prosecution department said.  More >