Most people ride 40 km per day, a distance which is within the ability of just about everyone. Some village centres become virtual no-go areas for cars, but the routes run along the same network of cycle-paths and minor country roads as are used for riding the rest of the year.
The pace is very relaxed with people riding from one cafe to another as you can see in our video of one day last week:
There was also a prologue, a ride of 175 km covered by our local TV station, daily rides of 60 and 100 km for those who like to ride further and faster as well as a mountain biking alternative, an alternative where everything can be accessed by wheelchair, and a 30 km per day special kids ride:
UNICEF say that Dutch children have the best well-being in the world. Don't children from other countries deserve the same ?
But that's not all
This week there's a very different event in Assen. The European Junior Cycling Tour, or Jeugdtour, is the biggest junior cycle race in Europe, and perhaps the world. Competitors come to Assen from many countries in order to take part. The prologue was a short time-trial along one of the main roads in Assen this morning:
For this event a road was closed - one of the main routes by car into the centre of Assen. The parallel cycle-routes remained open for through cycling. But you see, even racers find they prefer to ride apart from motor vehicles...
|The upper, wider, red line is a primary cycle-route from the west of the city to the centre. This is the bicycle road to the centre of Assen shown in full in a blog post from a few days ago. The narrower red line is the cycle-path which forms the secondary route on the other side of the canal. The blue line is the road, which was used for cycle-racing today. Both cycle-routes alongside the canal were maintained as through routes for cycling.|
It all seems so easy here. There is plenty of space to cycle and plenty of people make use of it. There's not really any suppressed demand in the Netherlands. People already cycle and mass events just give an opportunity for another type of cycling. When a road needs to be closed for a cycling event, it's easy to arrange for that to happen. Even the secondary cycle-route shown in the cycle-racing video above has a story to it. To make space for it, the canal was moved sideways by two metres. But it's not like this everywhere...
Ten years ago I had a part time job in the UK in which I took turns to drive a bus full of bikes across the country with other like minded individuals and we'd try to encourage the public to ride our bikes at events.
While the hours were long and the pay was short, I always enjoyed this work. There was actually nothing easier than encouraging people to ride bikes so long as they could do so on a closed track with no cars. People would queue up to take our bikes and ride around with a smile on their faces. However, talk to them afterwards about the possibility of cycling to work or for other practical purposes, "sharing" the road, and of course the smile would drop. This was when I first started to talk about the importance of subjective safety, a regular theme on this blog.
|Junior cycle racers training yesterday|
on a cycle-path outside of Assen.
Good cycle paths support fast riders
When is London, not to mention the rest of the UK, going to actually start making progress ? The "superhighways" were built, and they turned out every bit as bad as I said they would, and sadly this has resulted in deaths on the streets of the city. A grand announcement made in March seems to have turned into not very much at all and just this morning I read about how Quietways "could" receive funding in three years time. That's not a promise, just a possibility, but somehow the same man from London who told us 147 days ago that London was already forty years behind the Netherlands has managed to make a headline even out of promising another three years of procrastination.
Some people have less patience than this and we're amongst them. We want to help the process to really start. To that end, last week we invited Boris Johnson and six other politicians from London to come on one of our study tours for free (they have to pay their own expenses). Not one of the people invited has yet responded beyond a single very generic reply
As it happens, there were SkyRide events over on the weekend in the UK. D.J Cook made a nice video in Southampton and Mark Treasure wrote a very good piece about Skyrides and suppressed demand. The video shows well how poeple turn out in their thousands to ride if they will have conditions in which is comfortable to do so. Mark's photos do a good job of how people get home from mass cycling events in the UK, often riding on the sidewalk to avoid the roads. In the Netherlands they do this on the same dense network of cycling infrastructure as they used for the event itself.