Here in the Netherlands it's not at all unusual for a household not to include a car. Lots of adults don't have driving licenses.
These things are all relative, of course, and mostly I make my comparisons to the UK where I lived for most of my life. The UK also has quite a lot of households without cars. The figures for car ownership and affordability compared between the UK and the Netherlands make for interesting reading.
Right up through the 1980s and early 1990s, The Netherlands had slightly higher car ownership than the UK, which was to be expected as cars were more easily affordable in The Netherlands than in the UK. However, in 1995 something changed. Car ownership here in the Netherlands stopped growing while it continued in the UK, surpassing the Dutch rate of ownership.
The 1997 figure for car ownership in The Netherlands showed a slight reverse, with 372 per thousand compared with 373 in 1992.
In 1994 in the UK, 30% of households were car free, and 11% were judged to be unable to afford a car. However, in The Netherlands, these figures were 42% and 7%, giving the widest gap between affordability and ownership amongst the EU15 in the table.
The figures together indicate one thing. More Dutch people make a deliberate choice not to own a car than citizens of other countries in this survey. It's not that they can't afford to own a car, but that they have less of a need of it.
By catering well for people who choose not to have a car, and creating an environment in which cycling is a very pleasant and efficient way of travelling, combined with good transport mode integration, an environment has been created where being car free is a more viable choice, both for families and individuals.
However, you don't have to read far into this data to see that the car is still very popular in the Netherlands. Dutch people like driving, and they like cars. Cars remain more affordable in the Netherlands than in the UK. However, Dutch people are not enslaved by cars. They have a choice of transport modes which work well, and the main alternative choice is the bicycle.
The figures are from page 63 of a report titled "Are you moving in the right direction?" which was produced by the European Environment Agency back in February 2000. This article is one of many articles with interesting figures which you can find on our cycling articles page. Unfortunately it is the most recent set of comprehensive figures that I've found. The fragmented figures I've found since then suggest a continuation on the same lines, though car ownership has grown all across Europe in the last ten years including in the Netherlands.
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The less positive stuff What not to do if you want a cycling "revolution" - Long list of interventions and policies which are not helpful. Copy the best examples from the Netherlands - a short list summarising the above. Important to copy the best examples, not just anything "Dutch". Bear in mind that the Netherlands is not perfect. Shared Space - this much hyped idea simply does not work well. It disenfranchises the vulnerable and claims of safety are exaggerated. Don't confuse the concept with far more successful nearly car free streets. Shared Use Paths designed to be used by pedestrians and cyclists together. These rarely work well because the two user groups are too different and it leads to conflicts. They are not built in the Netherlands (but cycle access to pedestrianized zones is good). Strict (or presumed) liability - If you think this is an important part of why people cycle in the Netherlands then it is probably not what you think it is. Helmets - one of several ways of scaremongering about the supposed dangers of what is actually a very safe means of transport
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A cyclist in a cycling family living in the capital of the cycling province of the world's greatest cycling country.
I was born in the UK, lived for over 8 years in New Zealand and have lived in the Netherlands since 2007.
I organise cycling infrastructure study tours, run an online bicycle shop, arrange cycling holidays and write a popular blog about cycling.
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