Wednesday 29 April 2009

41 percent of journeys by bike

Quietly, and without any fanfare at all, the Assen local government website now says that the last survey showed that at least 41 percent of all journeys in the city are by bike.

This represents a significant rise on three years ago when there were about 37 percent of all journeys by bike.

Note that this does mean all journeys, not just commuters. It's very much easier to get confident young adult commuters to cycle than to convince pensioners to cycle, or convince parents that it is safe for their children to cycle, or to convince people to do their shopping by bike.

Also note that many journeys are made by foot or on public transport, and that when bikes are used to make journeys to the railway station (where there are 2300 bicycle parking spaces) or bus stops these journeys don't even get counted as cycle journeys. Somewhat fewer than half of all journeys are by car.

It's easy to see why cycling has continued to be more attractive as the population of the city continues to rise at about 1.5% per year. It simply gets better here for cyclists all the time. The pace of cycle path building in and around the city continues to be brisk. Everything that was started last year has been completed. New things are now being done. We've new routes to the East and North East as well as to the West. Many paths inside the city have been upgraded, and we're looking forward in particular to being able to ride on a new recreational route nearing completion near our home.

There are many other posts about Assen, which show other aspects of what it is like to live here.

2010 update: The link to the local government article no longer works. When this was pointed out to me, I wrote an updated article.

The photos show some of the cycle parking on a typical day in the city centre. I have absolutely no idea how many official spaces there are for bikes, but it can of course never be quite enough. Assen doesn't have the highest cycling rate in the world. That honour goes to Groningen, a few km North of here. However, it is one of the many towns in the Netherlands which has a higher cycling rate than anywhere in any other country.


Karl McCracken (twitter: @karlonsea) said...

This is amazing, and seemingly achieved through really quite simple means that just require steely political will to kickstart the process (or, ahem, virtuous cycle).

You should get together with some people from Groningen, Houten and Amsterdam to do a version of the Four Yorkshiremen Sketch. I can see it now . . .

Kevin Love said...

"Somewhat fewer than half of all journeys are by car."

Interesting. That and 41% bike share means that very few trips are by public transit.

Wikipedia says that Assen's population is 65,000. That size of city is probably not big enough for a well-developed transit system. And why bother when one can cycle anywhere quickly.

By way of comparison, I live in The Riding of Toronto Centre, population 121,407. Car mode share for commuting is 26%, cycling and walking 34% and public transit 38%.

Toronto has more of a public transit culture than bike culture. Today's newspaper has an article about a $1.22 billion contract for new streetcars. That kind of money is not being spent for bicycle infrastructure.


David Hembrow said...

Kevin, I wrote that sentence to counter those who imagine that 41% by bike means that the other 59% are by car. Unfortunately, you seem to have thought I meant that was the case.

I don't have all the figures in front of me. However, there are plenty of people walking, and also plenty of people taking public transport. There wouldn't be so many cycle parking spaces required at the railway station and bus stops if there were not many people using public transport.

There are roads here which are for buses only, trains run three times an hour to Groningen (soon to be upgraded to four times an hour). It's all well used.

However, the most popular single mode is cycling, and it's very obvious which mode is considered to be most important.

Unknown said...

That's something else the two cities in "the north" rule the Netherlands when it comes to bicycling.
So assuming my math is correct, there's around 30,000 cyclists in Assen alone!? That's about how many there are in all of Southern Ontario during the summer where bicycling is at it's peak(or at least it feels like that).

On Monday I went to Niagara Falls and was quite surprised to see as many commuters on bikes...However the percentage would be closer to 0.04%.

David Hembrow said...

Ryan, a couple of years ago when the figure was still under 40%, the average number of cycle journeys made per day by Assen residents was just under 1.2. That means well over 70000 cycle journeys are made every day by the 65000 population.

A couple of days ago someone said on the radio that 7% of the Dutch population either do not cycle often or do not cycle at all. 93% of 65000 is well over 60000, and Assen probably does a little better than the national average because the cycling rate is higher than the national average.

Virtually everyone here cycles. There are no barriers of age, wealth, sex or physical ability.

anna said...

Amazing, I'd love to live in a place with a high percentage of cyclists. Everything above 10% already makes a significant change to me, but I can't even image how peaceful and relaxed it must be to live and cycle in a city with such a high number of journeys by bike.

Kevin Love said...

Fascinating. Toronto would never give a bus lane to bicycles.

In a very real way, we have "public transit culture." Over the decades this has manifested itself in many ways.

The City's transportation plan for the future is called "transit city." It involves taking vast amounts of road space away from cars and giving it to light rail cars running on their own right of way from which cars are now banned.

Capital cost? Well over $8,000,000,000. Yes, that's eight billion dollars.

In the same time frame, the Toronto Bike Plan is being implemented. Capital cost? $70,000,000. Seventy million dollars buys a lot, but it is not eight billion.

After a huge fight in the 1945-1975 period, Toronto never built an expressay network. Some of the bits of car expressway that were built are now being torn down.

One of Toronto's best bicycle paths goes through the partly-constructed remains of a cancelled expressway. It is actually quite beautiful in a Stonehenge type of way. See:

Note how the pedestrian sidewalk is to the left of the monoliths, the bicycle route in the centre between the monoliths and the car road to the right of the monoliths. Everything beautifully separated, and an out-of-control car that hits one of the monoliths is going to be stopped dead.

Details of Transit City are at:

The Bike Plan is at:

crispy said...

David, I just watched the youtube video you linked to in your comment. A couple of things leaped out at me: first, that such a road would have a segregated cycle way at all. I would consider that road very ride-able here in the States (which is part of the problem, of course). Second, the low amount of vehicular traffic on the road. What time of day was the video taken? Is that a normal level of traffic on such a road?

And 41%?!? Wow!