A few days ago Judy showed me this film of Bradford at the start of the 20th century. Shortly afterwards, I saw the one below showing Amsterdam at a similar date.
I was struck by the similarity of the two films. In both cases, the roads have trams, horses pull carts, dogs run freely, and there are bicycles and pedestrians.
What neither film shows, compared with the present day, is motor cars. As a result, human beings are free to walk, talk and relax in the street.
Cities around the world looked similar for most of the 20th century. It is only later, particularly from the 1970s onwards, that the bicycle was once again prioritized in the Netherlands, and from then onwards the similarities have faded as development took a very different path.
A survey last year found Bradford to be the 'worst city in Britain for cycling'. However, on looking for information on Bradford I found an amazingly long list of websites about cycling in Bradford, with hard working people involved in campaigning, training, and quite a lot of sport cycling.
Unfortunately, the problem is the infrastructure. If Bradford still looked like Amsterdam it would have a higher cycling rate than it does. But sadly, while the Netherlands moved on in road design since the 1970s, the UK did not, and Bradford is quite typical. So far as we've been able to tell, this is what the street shown in the Bradford video above now looks like. This may well also be the route of the local bike bus:
For real change to occur, Bradford, like all towns in the UK, needs to do what works.
Update 11 March David Domestique made a comment, which made me look at the website again, and that's where I saw this video of the bike bus in action:
It's a nice example of good people getting on with doing things in a positive manner. However, they still need government support if cycling is truly to grow.
This second video shows the conditions faced by cyclists who take part in the bike bus:
I'm not criticising the riders one bit. If I was there, I'd hope to find such agreeable people to ride with. But feeling a need to do so is one of the problems which the UK faces. Cycling is not nearly as subjectively safe as it needs to be for the masses to want to ride. There's a reason why rush hour looks somewhat different here.
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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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