Thursday 21 June 2012

More Study Tour feedback

On the Study Tours we pack into three days as much as possible of what took us many years to learn. Perhaps it's not surprising that people sometimes look a bit shell-shocked by the end of the tour as it can be quite hard to take it in. Feedback is always welcome, and happily it usually demonstrates very well that participants on the tour have understood what they saw. Today we were lucky enough to receive feedback from two different people.

Michel from Norway sent us this wonderful video made by Ingvild Stensrud and Herman Andreassen, two of the Norwegian students who came on a tour in March. I don't understand Norwegian, and there are no English subtitles, but it's a very watchable video which demonstrates much of what they saw on the tour:

The second item came from Claire Prospert of the Newcastle Cycling Campaign. Claire has written a wonderful and detailed blog-post for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain which is both a review of the tour in May as well as being extremely thorough and informative in itself. Please read her post.

The following video is one of several shot on the tour which you can find on Claire's youtube channel. This video catches the first thing that everyone saw on the the first day, before the tour had even started - the full spectrum of Dutch cycling from a velomobile to a school trip heading out of the city went by right outside the door of the accommodation on a street which used to be the main route for cars into Assen from the South but now is a much more friendly space:

During the May Study Tour we came across three different groups of children from three different schools. While it would be quite exceptional elsewhere, this isn't an unusual sight at all in the Netherlands (read other blog posts about school trips by bike). This brings us back to what is one of the most important things with regard to campaigning for a high cycling modal share: you have to start with children, and indeed that is what the Dutch did.

Why come on a tour ?
Our blog, as well as others that we link to on the right, go to some effort to explain how things work in the Netherlands. There are also books on the subject, and many people refer to Google Maps. All of these things give an impression, however there is really no substitute for seeing it yourself.

When in the Netherlands, there is much to see, and it is very easy it is to miss things or to misunderstand the context or usage. I know from personal experience that on first visiting the country it is easy to ride past important infrastructure without noticing it at all - the ease of cycling in the Netherlands makes it very easy to take the reason for that ease for granted. What's more, very few Dutch people who have "always" been surrounded by the infrastructure realise that it is exceptional. People's memories are short and they don't necessarily recall how things used to be.

For these reasons, it is helpful to be on a tour which specifically takes in so many interesting features as possible, and on which there are explanations of why these things are interesting. Because you benefit from our years of experience on a three day tour, this saves a lot of time. We're native English speakers and understand the different contexts of cycling in both English speaking countries and the Netherlands. This is what is unique about our study tours and why people find them to be so informative.


Don said...

Interesting to note that a fair few riders (in the second video) are wearing hi-viz tabards etc.

There is occasional debate in the UK about how hi-viz increases the perception of cycling being dangerous. Like helmet wearing, I imagined hi-viz would be unnecessary and rare in the Netherlands.

The comments indicate that this is a school trip. I wonder if there are the same Health & Safety pressures as in the UK? School outings here always seem to involve a lot of hi-viz vests and such, even in broad daylight!

David Hembrow said...

Don, I wondered if someone would comment about that.

No, the same irrational "health and safety" fears do not exist in the Netherlands. No "risk assessments" are done for trips like this. The country is all the better for it.

Indeed, we have a strange, and somewhat insulting, situation where Dutch exchange students visit the UK and stay with British families, but when British kids come here they stay not with families but in paid group accommodation because the British H&S squad doesn't trust Dutch families to take care of British kids.

If you've ever lead a group ride you'll know that it's nigh on impossible to keep track of ten or more people. Some schools here put reflective jackets on the children just so that they can spot them in a crowd. It increases the chance that a group emerging from the chaos of a town centre will have the same number of children as it had when it entered.

That's the reason for the reflectives on some school trips.

Bob said...

While there are certainly many aspects of living in Vienna that my wife and I enjoy (some cultural bits and such) the biking in the Netherlands is something we truly miss.

Even though there are times when watching folks riding along in such comfort and safety does give me pangs of envy I would just like to say *thanks* for this, and all your posts.
Keep it up.

Matt Nicholas said...

Great to see your tours inspiring more people David. However I see you have been neglecting certain details; I wonder where Claire got the idea of the Dutch NHS from? ;)

Probably another case of taking things you've always known for granted.

David Hembrow said...

Matt, you're right. There is no "Dutch NHS". However, what they have instead actually works very well. Medical insurance is free of charge for children, the unemployed etc. Those in work pay an amount to a (usually) non-profit health insurance company which is not dissimilar to the cost of National Insurance in the UK. The result of this is medical treatment without any charges, to a very good standard, and with no waiting lists.

Note that anyone can pick any insurance company and they are not allowed to refuse you or charge you extra no matter what pre-existing conditions you may have or how much treatment you have required recently. Because of this aspect it all works rather more similarly to the NHS in the UK than it is similar to the US system.

Other similarities to the modern day NHS are that dental treatment is treated differently (to a good standard with slightly higher insurance) and you have to pay for prescriptions.

Matt Nicholas said...

Indeed David don't worry, I realise that a universal care system exists along those lines. Wise to explain it though, in case people do think of the American system. Other people I have visited with in the past have been a bit surprised by the whole 'private insurance' thing, I suppose it's because the American and British systems are the two most commonly presented to them in the media and daily life and so they are unaware of alternatives.

A bit like with cycling!

Frits B said...

Matt Nicholas: The Dutch Department of Health etc. explains the system here, in English:
To give you an idea of the cost: as a single pensioner I pay slightly over 5% to my insurer in premiums, plus an undisclosed part of income tax through the taxman. The premiums are individual, so having a wife doubles the outlay.

Severin said...

Well, I speak Swedish which is very similar to Norwegian. The video just cites facts/figures about how many bike parking spaces there are at train stations, how many kids bike to school, why so many people bike etc.. and that they biked 3 miles from Groningen to Assen.

David Hembrow said...

Thanks for the translation. It's 30 km, btw, not just 3 miles.

Severin said...

I think it was a Scandinavian mile :)

Kevin Love said...

Some day I am going to be on one of David's study tours. Regretfully not this year, but I'm saving my pennies.

Many, many years ago when I was in high school, I did a Grade 13 exchange. It was family-to-family. It was strange to read David's comments about UK children staying in paid accommodations. How is this affordable?

Frits B said...

Re hi-viz tabards: these are obviously tourists in Amsterdam:

Bewildered, flabbergasted, you name it.