Unravelling the Cycling City: lessons from Amsterdam

Camcycle has been meeting every month for nearly 25 years, and often filmed our guest speakers, but the April 2020 meeting was the first one to be hosted exclusively online. Owing to the coronavirus pandemic, we were not able to gather together in-person as usual, but met up virtually on our Facebook channel where attendees could view the presentation and post comments and questions.

If you weren’t able to make the meeting, you can now view it here or on directly on YouTube (do subscribe to our YouTube channel as we’ll be publishing more of our events online soon). Despite a few technical issues at the beginning, our Executive Director Roxanne De Beaux did a great job inspiring us from her living room with tales of her experiences studying on the Planning the Cycling City course at the University of Amsterdam summer school.

Roxanne talked about her experience cycling to Amsterdam from Cambridge and living and studying in the world’s cycling capital, a fietsparadijs for those who love to ride! From a relaxing commute along quiet streets to sharing busy junctions with cyclists of all ages and backgrounds, the best way to learn was to immerse oneself in the city’s cycling culture and that included riding a typical Dutch Omafiets with pedal brakes.

So, what was the secret to Dutch cycling success? Culture, infrastructure or something else? Roxanne and her fellow students hoped to learn the special recipe for cycling heaven, but found that there wasn’t one solution that could be found in a manual, or even on the streets of Amsterdam. Watch the video to find out how observation, innovation, experimentation and, yes, continual campaigning, play a part in growing and maintaining cycling in the Netherlands. There are also lessons to be learnt from a ‘bag of fries’ junction, the world’s biggest cycle park, a cycling royal family and the world’s happiest children. And why, when other countries are designing in new infrastructure, are the Dutch actually removing many of their cycle lanes?

The next Camcycle meeting will be held online on Tuesday 5 May will guest speaker Mark Philpotts, a transport engineer known online as the ‘Ranty Highwayman‘ and a co-founder of the Beyond the Bicycle coalition. Find out more about this and other Camcycle events on our events page.


Glossary of Dutch terms used in the video

Fietsparadijs – a ‘cycling paradise’, what we all aspire to!

Omafiets – a classic Dutch-style upright, step-through ‘grandma bike’

Woonerf – a ‘living street’ which has been designed primarily as a social space for people, not a through-road for motor traffic

Stop de Kindermoord – ‘Stop the Child Murder’, a 1970s protest movement against the high number of child deaths on the roads in the Netherlands (up to 500 per year), which turned the tide against unrestricted priority for motor traffic and began the revival of the country as a place for cycling.


Links mentioned in the video

Mama Agatha video

Agartha Frimpong, nicknamed Mama Agatha, is a 59-year-old Ghanaian woman who runs a bicycle training program for migrant and refugee women in the south of Amsterdam. A ‘community mother’ with a larger-than-life personality, she teaches a group of women from Pakistan, Morocco, Somalia, China and elsewhere the most basic Dutch skill: cycling.



Unravelling the Cycling City online course

The world’s first academic online course on cycling, offered by the University of Amsterdam on Coursera.com. The course covers state-of-the-art knowledge that emerges from research and practice on the Dutch cycling system.



Digital World-Bike conference

Interact with some of the greatest minds, brands and influencers in cycling, all under one virtual roof. Speakers include record breakers, Tour de France participants and extreme athletes as well as urban mobility pioneers. Content is available until 30 April and registration is free and open to all.



Pecha Kucha: Cycling and happiness

Dutch children are consistently ranked among the happiest children in the world. What role does cycling play in helping them grow up sociable, healthy and independent and how can we apply those lessons to the places we live?



Future of transport review

The UK government have published a call for evidence on micromobility vehicles (such as electric scooters), flexible bus services and mobility as a service (including dial-a-ride, car rental and bike sharing). Submit information and comments before 11.45pm on 22 May 2020.



Decarbonising transport plan

The majority of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions currently come from the transport sector. On 26 March, the government published a document considering the actions needed and challenges ahead as the country moves towards a net zero transport system. Share your views, register for regular updates and register your interest for upcoming Decarbonising Transport workshops by emailing TDP@dft.gov.uk and following @transportgovuk on Twitter.



Pedalling in the cultural lane
Check out our members’ recommendations of things to read, watch, listen to and study during lockdown.



Keep on Cycling

Inspiration and advice to help you continue riding during the coronavirus pandemic. Don’t forget to share photos and stories of your daily journeys on our social media channels with the tag #KeepOnCyclingCambridge



Camcycle events

Find out more information on upcoming Camcycle meetings and social events.



Camcycle plans for the immediate future

Some of the highlights of our cycling calendar are cancelled, but we’ll be working on lots of other exciting projects over the coming months. More volunteers are welcome to help us refresh our website, write new cycling policies and help out with other Camcycle projects.