Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cycling In Holland

Many of the dear readers of this eclectic blog will remember that last year I did some cycle touring in The Netherlands, a country that is now dear to my heart. I often Google about Holland as I continue to expand my knowledge of this extremely interesting country and its people. Most of the text that you read below is from a internet site about cycling in Holland. It explains why cycling is so popular there - but does not mention one of the most decisive reasons - which I have added at the end. The site show a video giving an example of how common cycling is in Holland. Apparantely, it was -2 degrees when this video was taken. In the winter months cycle rates can fall to as low as 95% of all children arriving by bike.
When you look at the infrastructure of cycling in Holland you can see why cycling is so popular.
Cycle paths are wide, well maintained and numerous. Cyclists get preference at many lights and paths often go underneath. There is plentiful cycle parking. For example, a secondary school in Assen has 725 students and 850 cycle parking spaces. (just imagine the space for 850 cars)Motorists expect cyclists and road planners design city centres with pedestrians and cyclists in mind
Cycling Statistics
In the Netherlands 27% of all trips are made by bike, compared to
UK 1.3%
US 0.9%
The average distance cycled per person is
Netherland 2.5 km,
UK 0.2Km,
US 0.1Km
Women’s Share of Cycling
Netherland 55% of all cycle distance travelled by women
UK 29%
US 25%
Australia 21%
Cyclists Injured per 10 million Km
US 35
UK 6
Netherlands 1.4
Why Is Cycling So Popular in Netherlands?:
Extensive systems of separate cycling facilities:
• Well-maintained, fully integrated paths, lanes and special bicycle streets in cities and surroundingregions
• Fully coordinated system of colour-coded directional signs for bicyclists• Off-street short-cuts, such as mid-block connections and passages through dead-ends for cars
Intersection modifications and priority traffic signals:
• Advance green lights for cyclists at most intersections
• Advanced cyclist waiting positions (ahead of cars) fed by special bike lanes facilitate safer andquicker crossings and turns
• Cyclist short-cuts to make right-hand turns before intersections and exemption from red trafficsignals at T-intersections, thus increasing cyclist speed and safety
• Bike paths turn into brightly coloured bike lanes when crossing intersections
• Traffic signals are synchronized at cyclist speeds assuring consecutive green lights for cyclists(green wave)
• Bollards with flashing lights along bike routes signal cyclists the right speed to reach the next intersection at a green light
Traffic calming
• Traffic calming of all residential neighbourhoods via speed limit (30 km/hr) and physical infrastructure deterrents for cars
• Bicycle streets, narrow roads where bikes have absolute priority over cars
• ‘Home Zones’ with 7 km/hr speed limit, where cars must yield to pedestrians and cyclists using the road
Bike parking
• Large supply of good bike parking throughout the city
• Improved lighting and security of bike parking facilities often featuring guards, video-surveillanceand priority parking for womenCoordination with public transport
• Extensive bike parking at all metro, suburban and regional train stations
• ‘Call a Bike’ programmes: bikes can be rented by cell phone at transit stops, paid for by the minuteand left at any busy intersection in the city
• Bike rentals at most train stations
• Deluxe bike parking garages at some train stations, with video-surveillance, special lighting, music, repair services and bike rentalsTraffic education and training
• Comprehensive cycling training courses for virtually all school children with test by traffic police • Special cycling training test tracks for children
• Stringent training of motorists to respect pedestrians and cyclists and avoid hitting them
Traffic laws
• Special legal protection for children and elderly cyclists
• Motorists assumed by law to be responsible for almost all crashes with cyclists• Strict enforcement of cyclist rights by police and courts.
But the one thing they forgot to tell is that one of the main reasons why cycling is so popular in The Netherlands and so easy to do is because:



renee said...

Hi Alden,

I could not resist reacting to this blog with a few words. May be a longer reaction later.
You are painting a very ideal picture made up from all the things that are present in fragments here and there. My reality is less ideal, but I agree completely with your last statement. The country is “plat als een pannekoek” and therefore bike usage is very easy. As soon as the land becomes hilly or mountainous, biking becomes a sport and not everybody likes that. (Or is able to cope with i.e. elderly and children).
All those traffic design features are nice, but it is not a determining factor. For instance in the 50 and 60’s bike usage was even more present and none of the special measures you mentioned were there. Most important is culture and how you were brought up. Children learn to bike at age 3-4 and go to school by bike. First guided by parents and later at age 6 alone. My children did it, I did it, but my parents walked , because a bike was a luxury then.
When you are living in the polder, it is not uncommon to bike 15 km to school. Then you learn what a headwind and bad weather is. Because people think that it is normal you do it. So a headwind is just in your mind.
An example of big city life is given by my son. In his first year at university his bike was stolen twice and he decided to walk. Since 5 years he is walking the 7 km daily. Needless to say that his walking speed is enormous. So there is a solution for everything, not necessarily a technical one.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Pal--

Yes, I DO remember your vacation and I've been bringing up the idea that my wife and I spend a little time pedalling there this summer. So far she's not too interested. It sounded like you did the trip solo. Is that so? I really want to see this land of cycles and sails.

Alden said...

Ben (renee), During the 50s and 60s in Christchurch where I grew up and where it is plat als een pannekoek, there was a strong bike culture. My father rode to and from work for over 20 years and all of the Smith children biked to school etc. The difference between what has happened in Holland as opposed to what has happened in Christchurch (where the biking culture has dropped away somewhat with the rise in general affluence) is that Holland has since the 1960s instigated some special measures which have helped the bike culture to continue.

Alden said...

Dan, yes I did the trip solo. I purchased a bike in The Netherlands. I took all my bike gear with me - saddle bags, tent, sleeping bag etc.
It is an absolutely superb place to bike. I had intended to cycle in Belgium but never got that far. I am told that Belgium which borders The Netherlands has a similiar bike culture with designated tracks and lots of flat country in the Northern part of Belgium.

Ben Bongers said...

Hi Alden,You are right in the sense that most of all the measures you mentioned are there to improve safety. This is very necessary because trafic density increased tremendously since the 60's. But wat is left is the weather.
I got carried away a litttlebit with the culture and upbringing part.
You have the paradygma of number 8 wire man for NZ. My paradygma for Holland is the lonely biker on a polderdike who is fighting the elements

Alden Smith said...

Ben, you said - "My paradygma for Holland is the lonely biker on a polderdike who is fighting the elements" - I think that is a really, really great image. I think it is that Dutch fighting spirit that saw the country through some very bad times during WW2 and enabled your countrymen and women to wrestle back one third, one third!!! of your land mass from the sea! Impressive stuff.

Delwyn said...

Hi Alden

ah do I remember those darn head winds in CHCH ....and I remembered the other day when passing Hagley Park en route to the hospital that I was chased on my bike when coming home from Girls' High by a biking pervert!!!!can you believe it...
Boy did I pedal like the wind that day.

Happy days

Alden Smith said...

Delwyn, I remember those head winds too. I remember there always seemed to be a head wind in the morning biking to High School (wind off the land) and a head wind on the way home (usually a very cold easterly off the sea)- but despite all that wind, I did lots and lots of bike exploration all over Christchurch in those days AND as I write I am sitting here in my black lycra pants (yes I know, too much information) ready for this mornings exercise which is cycling!!

Paul C said...

This is a wonderful overview of cycling in Holland. We are thinking of a vacation to the Amsterdam area next year.

I like the perspective of your blog and will return.

Alden Smith said...

Paul, the bike culture is fantastic, and this is very apparent in Amsterdam but:

"There are about 700000 bicycles in the city. Each year, about 100000 of them are stolen ..."

- so if you go there and hire or buy - get yourself a good, strong lock.

I never ever had any trouble or worry about the security of my bike during my time there but I did avoid the big cities, mainly riding between small towns in semi rural areas.

I highly recommend a cycling tour of The Netherlands in the summertime, its a fantastic country and I found the people very friendly.