Wednesday 6 April 2011

What inspires Americans ?

Riding in the Netherlands from Bikes Belong on Vimeo.
Bikes Belong in the USA recently visited the Netherlands on a study trip and produced this film as well as an article entitled A Week of Biking Joyously.

On the resulting blog posts says of the statistics which surround cycling in the Netherlands that: Upon hearing these statistics it’s tempting to casually dismiss the entire Dutch cycling experience as irrelevant to our own, as if some exotic alien technology beyond our comprehension were responsible. I’m no biologist, but I’m pretty sure there is no unique bicycling gene only present in Dutch nationals that compels them to ride bikes way more than anyone else.

On the contrary, most of the factors that enable high levels of bicycle use in the Netherlands can be traced to deliberate (and replicable) human decisions. Consistent investment in high-quality infrastructure over the past four decades, policies favoring compact and diverse land use, comprehensive traffic safety education, economic and legal incentives; all of these work together make bicycling the fastest, easiest, cheapest and most logical way move around for short trips.

You’d be crazy not to ride a bike.

They also wrote other things after their return, such as how they'd seen bicycling being normal and how bikes are the right tool for the job, and there is also a very attractive presentation about the visit.

Click for cycling infrastructure study tour details
There is much work to be done in normalizing cycling in the USA. We have to hope that these people will help to keep the country on the right path.


Anonymous said...

See here for an update on the ongoing battle over the Prospect Park West bike lane in New York -

Quite incredible that a top lawyer is working pro bono towards removing this lane.

Thankfully it looks like the tide is turning, with regard to this lane at least. The more children using that lane, the more bicycle use becomes normalized, and the harder it will become to oppose these kinds of infrastructure changes in the future.

Neil said...

@Dave - Utrecht, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague - Any comments on their choices? I presume these are the biggest od Dutch cities or amongst them?

Micheal Blue said...

Can someone bring Toronto officials to Holland, as well?
I'm willing to contribute to the cost of the plane tickets.

David Hembrow said...

Neil: Yes, they visited the four largest population cities.

We do study tours too, mostly based around Assen for two reasons: We live here, and it's a microcosm of everything with all within easy reach by bike.

We also visit Groningen as it's nearby, is the 8th largest city, and of course it has the highest cycling rate.

Michael: I'd be delighted to see Canadians visit.

My focus initially was on Britain, from where I've been trying for many years now to encourage politicians, councilors, planners etc. to come. I wrote to all the relevant people involved in cycling and planning across the country, and to all the politicians who'd written about their support for cycling, and to every place which was a designated "cycling city" or "cycling town". Not one has visited. Most didn't respond at all.

For those who did respond but said they couldn't come because of the date, I offered any date which would suit them. I even offered to pay for a few of them. However, if they're not interested they won't come no matter what you do or say.

Britain has made no progress on cycling for a very good reason !

Quite a few people have been on our tours now, mostly interested individuals and existing cycling campaigners, as well as a few interested cycling officers paying their own way.

Severin said...

Love seeing the US posts (hate to be reminded of the reality), and interesting to hear about your experience in trying to get officials to visit, I like that you do that.

However, only so many visits can be made to the Netherlands/ Denmark, we definitely need the political will. LA's Mayor said the city "could do a lot better" after visiting Copenhagen. Little has surfaced though to show evidence he was really inspired. He even talked of a statewide manditory helmet law to 'make cycling safer' though he thankfully seems to have scrapped that idea.

With communication technology one may argue visits to learn from the Dutch aren't necessary as documents, videos, phone coversations, photos, etc can be exchanged with computers.

Kevin Love said...


Although videos, etc, are certainly "what to do, faut de mieux", there is no substitute for actually cycling the infrastructure.

I've been to NL a few years ago, and I would love to visit again. Saving up the pennies...

Gary Mac said...

What a fantastic video. It sums up how to develop cycling in a few minutes. I wish the Australians could run this during ad breaks on prime time TV. It really isn't that difficult, all it needs is political will. Thanks for a great post, it is good to see some positive steps being taken by other counties.