It's quite well known that Dutch children cycle to school and it's increasingly well known that the freedom of Dutch children is a good part of why they have such good well-being.
The infrastructure which makes it possible for Dutch children to have freedom in safe conditions didn't appear by chance. It is in large part the direct result of campaigning by Dutch parents for better conditions for their children.
The same type of campaigning could also pay dividends elsewhere. This is why we have started the Campaign for Childhood Freedom. It's not a "cycling" campaign. While adult cyclists elsewhere would stand to gain much by building of infrastructure as exists in The Netherlands, this campaign is not aimed at adult cyclists. It's quite important to make this distinction.
This is for children. Everyones' children. Everyones' children deserve the same advantages that Dutch children already have. Every parent wants their child to be safe, to be able to develop socially, to have friends, to be healthy. All these things are enhanced by the building of an environment in which children can walk and cycle in safety.
|Independent travel is a large part of what makes Dutch children so happy. Note that riding is usually social and side-by-side.|
|There's no conflict between pedestrians and cyclists because those who have a shorter distance to travel and walk have separated paths for walking while those who ride a bike have a cycle-path of sufficient width that it's possible for friends to ride together or a mother to give her child a little help. This cycle-path is 3.5 metres wide - wide enough for side-by-side cycling in both directions at once.|
|Being independent from a young age is valuable to any child. Surely all adults remember having fun when their parents were not around.|
|Bicycles allow children to make relatively long journeys with their friends and without needing their parents to accompany them.|
|The average age for a child to go independently to school is 8.6 years. It is a sign of how healthy cycling is in this area that it is very rare to see a cargo bike or bakfiets used to transport even very young children. Conditions here are safe enough for children to ride their own bikes rather than be transported on their parents' bikes. Parents carry children on their own bikes for much the same reason as they drive children in cars. i.e. in an attempt to keep them safe where the infrastructure doesn't do a good enough job.|
|Bikes parked at a secondary school waiting to be released at the end of the day.|
Primary schools are many and their catchment areas are very small. As a result, almost all children either walk or cycle. Those who live closest to the school will walk, but 49% of primary school (age 5-11) children go to school by bike.
Secondary schools (age 12 upwards) are spaced further apart. In this area of The Netherlands there are no secondary schools in the villages so it is normal for children from the age of 12 to cycle up to 40 km a day in order to get to and from school.
In this part of the country a somewhat higher ratio than average of primary school children cycle (see section below) and more than 90% of secondary school aged children cycle to school. Not that it does not stop in our cold winters.
Update Monday 9 September
The photos and video above were taken in Kloosterveen, the newest suburb of Assen. This is an excerpt from the cycling plans for the city from 2006:
|The entire document in Dutch is downloadable from our website.|
By the time this suburb had a population of 6000 people, 1800 bicycle trips were made per day by primary school children in addition to the 5200 other bicycle trips per day made by everyone else. That's a total of 7000 trips per day by bicycle by 6000 people. For the whole population including primary school children that adds up to 116 trips by bicycle per day per 100 residents. It was also estimated that about 10% more trips per day could be counted if people from elsewhere riding through the suburb were included. I was doing this when I shot the video. The suburb can be used as a through route by bicycle but not by car.
This suburb is expected to eventually grow to accommodate 15000 people and the intention of the planners is that by that time there will be 17500 cycle journeys per day - the expected total of residents, primary school children counted separately and cyclists from elsewhere passing through.
It should be noted that there are roughly 50 other developments like this under construction across The Netherlands and all follow similar principles. Residential areas designed as long ago as the 1970s had similar aims and older residential areas have also been transformed to allow only bicycles to use them as through routes. As a result, usage patterns, including how frequently children cycle to school, are very similar in older areas to newer suburbs like Kloosterveen.
The moped 'menace'
Much is often written about the nuisance of mopeds in the Netherlands. However, their numbers are usually vastly overestimated. While this suburb has 116 trips per day by bicycle for every 100 residents, there are just 3 trips per day by moped. 2.6%.
Judy took the photos during last week's study tour. The video resulted from my accidentally turning towards the school during a lunchtime ride this week. Normally I'd take a different route at this time of day. There are many choices.
There's an interesting blog post at Kennington People on Bikes which provides a London based counterpoint this this blog post. In Vauxhall, they're planning for no children at all to cycle to school. The post features additional photos of children cycling to school in Kloosterveen, taking by Charlie during the Study Tour two weeks ago.