Chrissie Decker writes about her thoughts after going on the BCyC Dutch study tour in Sept 2014. See also this posting.
Having experienced the joy of dedicated cycling space in other countries, I have been waiting for us to catch up in the UK. The progress so far is patchy at best and wholly inadequate at worst. Tired of waiting, I decided I had to take action.
When Bristol Cycling Campaign organised a study tour to the Netherlands, I grabbed the opportunity to go and see for myself and learn from the masters.
The first and greatest thing that struck me was the huge range of people that benefited from their cycling infrastructure. In the UK, many people imagine that only a minority group of cycling enthusiasts would benefit from cycling investment but it was apparent that this is far from the truth.
Safe by design, it is accessible to all ages and abilities from very young children and families, to elderly and disabled people, leading to increased independence and social inclusion across the generations.
Protected routes allow people to use diverse modes of active travel, including electric bikes, powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters, cargo bikes, trailers and tag-alongs, scooters, skateboards and so on.
Car free routes lead to a more pleasant walking environment, with less noise and air pollution and less exposure to road traffic danger.
Active travel leads to greater social interaction, resulting in stronger community bonds.
Local businesses benefit from the passing trade that can hop off and buy with great ease.
Finally, each journey that is made by bicycle is one less journey that may have been made by car. The reduced congestion is beneficial to those in their cars too.
The second thing that struck me was the misconception of “Dutch Style” cycling. It is often assumed that they have wide roads throughout and that segregated cycle lanes are their only tool for success. In truth they use many methods to achieve an effective Urban Mobility Plan.
When you see the wealth of approaches they use, it seems far more realistic that we can achieve something similar in the UK.
Expansive and integrated public transport, with plenty of bike racks at stations and inter-town bus stops. Space for bikes on trains.
Central ring roads to create car free town centres, fully accessible by bicycle.
Ensuring that there are suitable local amenities within walking or short cycling distance.
Walking and cycling routes through green spaces.
Physically segregated cycle lanes alongside roads, with priority across side streets.
Uninterrupted cycling routes between towns and from suburbs.
Quiet roads that are no through routes for motor traffic but fully accessible by bicycle.
Free flowing motor routes with innovative ways of bridging them to avoid traffic flow disruption, such as underpasses, bridges, annular roundabouts and simultaneous green junctions.
One thing that really challenged my opinion during the visit, was their shared walking and cycling space. Previously I had thought that segregation was the only way to achieve harmony but they proved otherwise. It was a joy to observe people walking, jogging, pushing buggies and wheelchairs, cycling, roller skating and skateboarding through a park on a shared route without witnessing any conflict. They simply and loosely adopted the following etiquette:
Keep right (or left in our case for the UK).
Adhere to a suitable speed.
Demonstrate mutual respect.
Perhaps I am over-optimistic but I would like to think that, in time, we too could achieve such an equilibrium.
Finally, now I am back home, having seen what we could achieve I am more determined than ever to be a catalyst to make it happen.
Cycling infrastructure has a positive impact on society far greater than most people imagine. I think it is time to challenge that perception.
The politicians talk of a “cycling revolution”, so they show that they can talk the talk. Now let’s walk the walk and… err… ride the route!