March 4, 2019 at 11:49 am #1005
Have you ever travelled to the Netherlands and experienced the serene atmosphere of their cities and neighbourhoods? Multiple canals, lots of trees, small houses, colourful businesses, cute streets and squares full of cafe and restaurant terraces… All of these elements contribute to give Dutch cities their laid-back and friendly character. But there is another essential element to the mix! Did you guess what it is? Of course, cycling!
How it all started in the Netherlands
Everyone thinks cycling was always part of Dutch culture but it is not true. It only became popular at the end of the 19th century, after Walthamstow-born engineer Starley invented a ‘safety bike’ model that he called ‘Rover’. This type of bike was safe to use by all, compared to the Pennyfarthing one, and, perfected by many British manufacturers, was widely exported to the Netherlands. In 1895, 75% of the bikes in the Netherlands came from the UK. In England too, cycling was common and the first bike path was built in 1934.
How cycling nearly disappeared there too!
Improving substantially people’s quality of life in many ways, English bikes were beloved by the Dutch. And when cars were starting to dominate the picture in the seventies, the Dutch had to fight really hard to keep cycling as main individual transport mode. Traffic, pollution, crashes, congestion, deaths, expensive oil… People thought cars were convenient but they were also causing lots of problems and damaging their cities and people. Heavily protesting for a year, they managed to have the government backing their concerns and starting a nation-wide programme to give space back to people in the mid-seventies. Watch videos on my blog ‘Dutch Cycling in London’ about the Dutch cycling history.
Instead, England made all its towns and villages great places to be for motorists only – with highways, multi-storey carparks, peripheric shopping malls… While unconsciously damaging both places and people’s health, this approach was considered modern and was widely supporting the English booming car industry, and the jobs and revenues it created.
A smart long-term investment
In 2019, Dutch people-friendly places are the result of more than 40 years of work by Dutch planners, urban designers, developers and officers in making cycling, and walking, a national priority, along with smartly accommodating motorised vehicles use. While the Dutch are perfecting their standards and dealing with issues such as mass cycle parking, the UK is still going through a shy cycling renaissance. This new interest in cycling started at the begin of the 21st century, people becoming more aware of the impact of individual cars on their wellbeing and the environment. In the UK too, cycling can be a success!
- This topic was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by Saskia.
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