I've read a lot of comments, especially from American cyclists, about how they believe that higher petrol (aka gas or benzine) prices will lead to more cycling. Comments are made that "in Europe" the cost of driving is much higher and as a result more people cycle and fewer drive. It's not as simple as that. For a start, not all of "Europe" is the same in every way.
The Netherlands and the UK differ markedly in the cycling rate. While the Netherlands has the highest cycling rate in the world with 27% of all journeys being by bike, the UK has amongst the lowest at around 1%. Much the same rate as the US, in fact (you can find figures for comparison here).
However, a difference in the cost of petrol is not the issue here. The sign in the photo shows the price of petrol and diesel in the Netherlands today at a garage that I cycled past: 125.9 and 94.4 euro-cents per litre. An online petrol price website tells me that the average costs in the Cambridge (UK) area is 91.4 and 101 pence.
These two figures work out as $6.08 and $4.79 per US gallon for petrol and $4.56 and $5.28 per gallon for diesel (a significant proportion of cars both here and in the UK run on diesel). Similar costs in both countries. Both much higher than the price of around $2 per gallon in the US.
Other costs of running a car are also very similar in the UK vs. the Netherlands.
Clearly something other than the price of this fuel is the reason for the differences between usage of bicycles in the UK and NL. Riding a bike for a while here in the Netherlands makes it very obvious what it is. Here you have more direct routes if you cycle and the whole experience feels an awful lot safer.
For a high cycling rate, you need a lot more than just expensive gas. Comparing the Netherlands with the UK is quite interesting from the point of view of car ownership.
There's a graph of cycling rate vs. petrol price in a newer blog post on the same subject.
The third price shown above is for LPG - Liquified Petroleum Gas, which is also sold as fuel for motor vehicles. Underneath the Northern part of the Netherlands is the Groningen Gas Field - the largest natural gas field in Europe.
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