Researchers at IBM have come up with an index for how bad it is to commute by car in various cities in the world.
For a long time I've argued that the Netherlands wins cyclists mostly by making cycling pleasant. Use of the carrot rather than a stick. It's much better to convince people to do something because they want to do it than to force them to do something they don't want to do. And that's how it is here. There is no "them vs. us" feeling around cycling vs. driving. Most people both cycle and drive.
Of all the cities in the survey, Amsterdam has easily the highest cycling rate. It has been shown that increasing the proportion of journeys by bike has many benefits, amongst them improving conditions for the remaining drivers.
This is born out by this research which reveals that not only is Amsterdam good for cyclists, but it is also a better city for drivers than car oriented cities such as London, Madrid and Paris. For drivers, Amsterdam is on a par with Los Angeles and only very slightly worse than Berlin, Montreal, New York and Melbourne.
The worst place in the survey for cycling is Beijing, a city where driving is rising as fast as cycling is falling.
Roads in the Netherlands are actually very good. They're an efficient network, well maintained. They are also well sign-posted and car parking is not difficult to find. It's an easy place to drive. However, despite this, car ownership is actually relatively low for such a wealthy nation.
People cycle here because they feel that they can. Cycling is attractive, convenient and safe.
Why doesn't everywhere try to emulate the Dutch success in cycling ? It really is difficult to find an excuse which holds water. Even the world's best cycling infrastructure is not actually expensive. It's quite possibly the most cost effective method for improving conditions for drivers.
The IBM link came via Velo Mondial.