Cycling in the Netherlands

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 75.

Cycling in the Netherlands book cover

This is not another report of a ‘study tour’ nor an invite to enjoy yourself cycling around Holland, but a review of a publication by the Dutch Government.

It states in the Foreword:

Based on the frequent requests for information from policy-makers, politicians and NGO’s from all over the world, we decided to produce a comprehensive brochure about cycling in the Netherlands, giving an actual overview on the results and findings of relevant studies and experiences.

Apart from the wonderful photographs, with hardly a helmet to be seen, except on policemen, there are tables of data which really ought to set our transport planners thinking.

It is the table of journeys according to mode and distance that SHOUTS at me. In Cambridge there have been a number of transport assessments, for example Clay Farm, where it is assumed for traffic modelling that no one will walk more than 2km or cycle more than 5km.

In the Netherlands for trips up to 7.5km 26% are done by walking, 35% are done by bike, and only 23% are done by car drivers. In the 7.5-15Km range 15% are still done by bike and 3% of trips over 15km are cycled.

Graph of journeys by mode and distance

If we used these figures to model traffic on our new fringe developments we wouldn’t be designing expensive complicated traffic light controlled junctions with two lanes of exiting cars and three stage crossings for pedestrians. Instead we could be spending the money on schools, recreation facilities, and perhaps even better cycle facilities?

There is also a section on ‘Cycling and Shopping’. It appears that retailers have the same misapprehension as in the UK, in that they think car drivers will spend more that cyclists. The facts say otherwise. In Groningen, which is similar in size to Cambridge, spending by locals on bicycles dominates. Other studies suggest that although cyclists may spend less per trip, they actually spend one and a half times as much as motorists.

The report does admit to failings. Although 49% of primary school children cycle and 37% walk, it says:

Bicycle routes to primary schools are not often joined; after all, the distance to the primary school is small. Generally it is only in the vicinity of the school that one could really refer to school routes. Improvement of primary school routes thus rapidly translates into the approach to traffic safety in the entire neighbourhood, or the complete town core.

I could go on….

This document has been written for just such people as our local councillors, planners and traffic engineers. It should be required reading for them, as well as us. Developers would do well to study it too.

See the full document.

Jim Chisholm