|Average number of bicycle rides per person per day for the entire Dutch population for all seasons combined broken down by age and sex|
It shows a number of things: that cycling is very popular with school age children, for instance, and that it drops off a bit for working age adults as for some the commute is "too far" by bike. Males between 20 and 50 years of age cycle the least. This is because they're most likely to have a job requiring a long commute. Women follow a similar pattern, but there is a jump in cycling between "25 to 30" and "30 to 40" as this is the age at which women have children, and having children allows women to return to cycling. This first happens with children on their mother's bike and later with women accompanying their children on their own bike before at eight years old they are able to ride unaccompanied to school. Men don't get this chance so often so men cycle less.
This is due to women being more likely to be at home looking after children than their male partners. As a result, they more often cycle with young children to school, or make shopping and other utility trips by bike. This is what leads to the Netherlands uniquely having 55% of trips overall by women. Men cycle less on average than women because they are more likely than women to be making the longest commutes in Europe, and doing so by other means of transport.
Cycling stays with people through their entire life. Even the over 75s are predominantly still active. They make an average of around 0.3 trips per day by bike, or more than two trips each week.
|The Dutch use their bikes for exactly the same purposes as people in other countries use their cars|
This level of cycle usage, across both sexes, all ages, and for all purposes, requires infrastructure which has a high level of subjective safety.
But let's go back to that figure of just 16% of cycle journeys being for commutes. In all too many places, commuting rate figures are touted as "modal share". Actually, commutes make for just a small percentage of total journeys in any country, and that should be the case for cycling too. However, in many countries there is not the required subjective safety for everyone to cycle. In these countries, promoting cycling as just something for commuters and ignoring the other 84% of potential cycle journeys removes the need to make conditions suitable for everyone to cycle. This can never be the route to mass cycling on the scale that it is seen in the Netherlands.
I am not impressed with people touting "commuting" modal shares because they have missed out the big picture. What is important is that everyone should be able to make every type of journey by bike. We should be cautious of figures designed to impress which emphasize the easier demographics to attract to cycling - one of which is the confident young adult, often but not exclusively male, riding to work and back.
These figures came from the same source as last week's post, the Fietsersbond. Marc has also written about these statistics.