UK politicians hand out £5000 bungs to buyers of electric cars (take up has been low) and are spending millions on e-car recharging infrastructure (there will be tears before bedtime). Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, many millions of Euros are spent on upgrading the already quite gorgeous infrastructure for bicycles.
Pah! What do the Dutch know that we don’t? Quite a lot it seems.
Whizz bang technology and eye-wateringly expensive infrastructure for cars, a declining mode of transport, has blinded British politicians to what is a rather simple solution to expensive congestion: more bicycling. Most urban journeys are short; many could be easily done on bicycles. But Britain has been in thrall to the motorcar for 100+ years and a hostile traffic environment for anything other than cars and trucks has gradually uglified our cities and – via gridlock – is now strangling them.
‘Twas similar in the Netherlands in the 1970s: and then the lightbulb was lit by two things, the Arab-Israeli oil crisis of 1973 and a campaign to stop to children being killed by cars.
These lightbulb moments are featured in a new and inspirational video from the Dutch Cycling Embassy. This is an outreach programme created by a long list of non-governmental organisations and bike companies.
The website for the Dutch Cycling Embassy is packed with facts and figures on why it makes perfect economic and social sense to invest in bicycles:
"Currently, the Netherlands has over 29,000 kilometres of segregated cycle tracks. This is 12,000 more than in 1996. Clearly, the Dutch continuously invest in cycling…Millions of euros are invested in making intersections safe for cyclists or creating dedicated tunnels and bridges. Amsterdam, for instance, spent 20 million euros a year on cycling projects between 2007 and 2010. The economic benefits far outweigh the costs."
According to the Embassy’s video, "the Dutch cycling industry is diverse and thriving."
Annually, the Dutch spend 1.4 billion dollars on bicycles. The Netherlands exports about 1 million bikes per year. The average price of a bicycle in the Netherlands is almost four times the average price of a new bicycle in the UK.
Conditions conducive to cycling encourage more journeys by bicycle. More journeys by bicycle keep Dutch bike shops in clover.
"In the Netherlands people with high incomes cycle more than people with low incomes, and women cycle more than men," says the Embassy.
The Embassy wants to export its cycling knowledge: "The Netherlands can be considered a cycling laboratory: creating perspectives for people and organisations abroad that want to enjoy the benefits of cycling."
The ideas the Embassy wants to export include:
Reducing car access to city-centres and create car-free areas; making parking in city-centres more expensive; constructing cycle paths and reducing road space for cars; facilitating cycling through cycle network planning, road design, signalling, parking and enforcement; and reducing maximum speed on the majority of urban roads to 30kmh or less.
The Embassy – which has recently joined Twitter – points out: "You travel 10% faster in cities by bike than by car. The quality of life in cities improves. Traffic congestion reduces. Local, city economies improve."
Watch the video: it’ll be seven minutes of your life well-spent.