Thursday, 22 March 2012

The explosive growth of cycling in Amsterdam

This month's Vogelvrije Fietser (the magazine of the Fietsersbond) included an article (which you can download or read here) entitled "The Bicycle reigns in Amsterdam".

It's an interesting read. Amsterdam has long been known internationally as a cycling city. Many cities overseas have compared themselves to Amsterdam, often rather inappropriately.

However, Amsterdam is a moving target. The city has not been standing still. Very few other places can claim to have seen cycling grow as it has over the last over the last 20 years in Amsterdam.

Within the whole city, the modal share for cycling increased from 33% in 1986-1991 to 47% in 2005-2008 (but see the note below)

Within the inner ring road, this increase was from 39% to 62% of journeys by bike.

As ever in the Netherlands, these figures are not just for commuters, but for all journeys.

Cycling to railway stations has seen particularly spectacular growth. Just 6% of train passengers arrived at the station by bike at the end of the 1980s, while 40% of train passengers arrive at the station by bike now.

The most popular reason for cycling is that it is fast. 50% of those who were asked in a survey, gave speed as their reason to cycle while just 6% said they cycle because it is inexpensive.

Just 73% of Amsterdammers own a bicycle, while 88% of people in the whole country have (at least) one. However, the average number of journeys per day by bike by Amsterdammers is, at 0.9 cycle journeys per day, a little higher than the average for the entire country. While car ownership has increased across the Netherlands as a whole since 1990, the number of cars owned in Amsterdam has dropped by three percent and their usage has dropped even more. The modal share for cars has dropped from 39% to 31% of journeys, and just 13% within the inner ring road, a reduction in the number of journeys made by car of 133000 each day.

Amsterdam is not perfect. The city doesn't have so high a rate of cycling as some other cities in the Netherlands, there is still quite a lot of less than excellent infrastructure, and it's a place where you need to take more care than in some other parts of the country. The city still has a problem with encouraging children to cycle.

However, visiting Amsterdam by bike is not like visiting the capital city of other countries. For cycling, it remains well in advance of anywhere except other Dutch cities, and as these recent figures show, the feeling of improvement that I have had after recent visits is not just an illusion. There has been real growth since we first took a trip to the city in the early 1990s.

For more information, please read the article for yourself, or you may be interested in some of the many other posts on this blog about Amsterdam.

Walking is missed out
Mark pointed out in a comment that walking is missing from these modal shares. He's right. Both the Fietsersbond and myself have fallen into a trap with these figures as they don't reflect the whole picture. I worked out in a comment below that if walking remains the mode for 20% of journeys in Amsterdam then the true modal share for bikes today is about 38% vs. driving at 25% and public transport at 18%.

This recalculation leaves Amsterdam with a higher than average modal share for cycling compared with the rest of the Netherlands, but lower than quite a few other smaller cities. This is much as you might expect as there are greater challenges in a larger, busier city.

It's rather disappointing to find that Amsterdam is playing games like this with statistics. Without reliable figures no real comparisons can be made.

5 comments:

As Easy As Riding A Bike said...

David, it's great that Amsterdam is not resting on its laurels, and is seeing, as you say, such explosive growth, with more people cycling than in any city outside of the Netherlands.

However there is some slight confusion about the figures - in all cases they add up to (around) 100%, so has walking been excluded?

Mark

David Hembrow said...

Mark, You're right. The Fietsersbond have fallen into the trap of reproducing figures which show the city in a better light than is the reality, and I've followed them right into it.

There is no accounting at all for walking in these figures. I guess that is the reason why the cycle figures seem a little higher than you might expect.

Figures that I recall from the early 1990s for cycling in AMS were about 27%, not 33%. Assuming that walking takes about an equal share out of all three modes, that would put the walking modal share at about 20%.

If we assume that the number of journeys walked has not changed, then we can scale back the figure for today by about the same amount, to about 38% ( = 47*27/33 ). This is about the figure I've seen elsewhere before. Driving and public transport would then have about 25% and 18%, making a total of ~= 100%. The bike still beats the car, and walking and cycling together account for over twice as many journeys as cars.

The figures come from a document which is publicly available, page 60. Move on to page 64 and 65 and you start to see some mention of pedestrians, but not in a useful way to work out the exact modal shares.

I have to say that getting good stats is always a difficulty.

I covered this same document before, but that time I left out the modal shares as I didn't quite believe them.

Kevin Love said...

Interesting article, but my Dutch is not as good as it should be. Is there a translation into English or French?

Slow Factory said...

Ahh... modal share, everyone's favourite barometer.

But it is quite elusive. Should we mainly consider non-private car mode share, because everything else is better? If some of the cyclists are actually walking, is it a problem? What about people who ride bikes for captive rather than active reasons?

Should the question also be "is everyone using the mode that they would prefer to use?". No, perhaps, in regards to cars, but yes in regards to cycling, right? This would be because the car is still too convenient and the bike still considered too dangerous. And there is bike + train (and in this blog entry the huge amount of bike  train trips are noted) which replaces the car, the subject of the "primary means" question which ends up in our little mode share articles after some processing.

I am very happy for Amsterdam because I believe that in reality mobility is getting softer and the majority of people are doing what they want to do.

More about modal share starting here.

Bastiaan said...

The terrible parking situation in Amsterdam (paid parking is very expensive, while getting a parking permit can take up to 4 years) might play a role too, combined with a strict policy of clamping illegally parked cars.