I was recently sent some transport statistics from Britain by someone who works for a government agency in the UK.
The first diagram is a plot of modal shared for motorized transport. This originates with the UK Commission For Integrated Transport and purportedly shows that the Netherlands is second only to the UK for car dependence.
The problem with this is, of course, that it is a plot only of motorised transport. In the Netherlands 18% of all all journeys are made by foot and 27% by bike. So they are missing out nearly half of the total. It's not even doing the UK any favours. People are often surprised to learn that 24% of journeys in the UK are by foot, though sadly less than 2% are by bike.
If you estimate figures on this graph and adjust for those non-motorised modes you suddenly find that in the UK around 68% of all journeys are by car, while in the Netherlands it's about 57%, which is a bit closer to the official figures of 64% in the UK (below) and 48% in the Netherlands. A substantial difference from the impression given in the first chart.
Funny things, statistics. Draw the right graph and you can "prove" things that are not quite true.
Here is another piece of information from the UK showing the current number of trips per person per year by different modes of transport. Bicycle and motor bicycle are combined and between them make up just 2% of the total at 19 trips per year for the average person. In reality, of course, this means many people simply never cycle at all in the UK. Cycling is completely alien to them, and cyclists are considered to be a bit odd - possibly even criminal.
This compares with 0.8 trips per person per day by bicycle in the Netherlands, rising in cities with more cycling. It's a little under 1.2 trips per person per day here in Assen and 1.4 per day in Groningen. It makes a very large difference to people's perception of cycling when it's a "normal" thing to do - when they regularly take part in it themselves, when they see all their neighbours cycle regularly, when their children all cycle to school.
For cycling to become normal again, it has to cease to resemble an extreme sport and be both very safe and convenient. It has to stop dropping in popularity (the average number of miles covered per person per year in the UK was 43 in 1997, but just 39 by 2006 - a 10% drop in ten years) and start rising. Until this happens, cycling will continue to be vulnerable to threats such as insurance companies blaming cyclists for being hit by cars.
I previously covered the number of households who don't have a car in the UK vs. the Netherlands.
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