Road building traditions go back a long way and they are influenced by many factors. But the way Dutch streets and roads are built today is largely the result of deliberate political decisions in the 1970s to turn away from the car centric policies of the prosperous post war era. Changed ideas about mobility, safer and more livable cities and about the environment led to a new type of streets in the Netherlands.
The recent video to introduce the Dutch Cycling Embassy explains this very briefly, but there is a lot more that can be said about it. That is why I made a longer video for a more in depth look into the history of cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands.
Please watch this video before you read on.
|Cycling protest tour 1979, Amsterdam.|
|Blackfriars protest tour 2011, London.|
(Picture by Joe Dunckley)
|Painting cycle lanes, Amsterdam 1980|
|Painting cycle lanes, Moscow 2011|
So where then is the difference? The below picture from 1974 says a lot. It shows the then prime minister of the Netherlands Joop den Uyl and his wife, accepting a record from the foundation ‘Stop de kindermoord’ (stop the child murder) with a protest song.
|Prime Minister Joop den Uyl and his wife accepting a record with a protest song by 'Stop de Kindermoord' with the radical title: |
"playing on the streets: death penalty"
Read more posts about campaigning. See examples of what works in the Netherlands.
How to read this post - a note from David
This is one of the most popular posts by Mark. Note his emphasis in the last paragraph about addressing the Prime Minister and his wife as parents. They were addressed as equals and as people in a similar situation to the protesters. This was not a "them vs. us" situation but one of mutual respect and support.
This is the essential difference between how the Dutch achieved change and how many other campaigns elsewhere have failed to achieve change. Campaigning for cyclists or cycling is not effective as you're then campaigning for an out-group and not proposing something beneficial to the masses. Similarly, there is no point in campaigning against drivers as you are then pitting a small group against a much larger group. What's more, while the Netherlands has been more successful than any other nation at reducing use of motorised transport, this country has achieved that end without alienating drivers and without overt anti-car measures. Choosing to fight against drivers means picking a battle which cannot be won and one which in any case you don't to fight.
Read other posts about campaigning which further this discussion.
This guest post by Mark Wagenbuur also appears on his own blog.