All about cycling in the Netherlands
This is my one hundredth blog post! When I realised it was coming up I thought it needed something special. Something outstanding, something golden or something … but I soon dismissed that thought. The posts which are generally loved most by all of you are the ones in which I show you something that couldn’t be more ordinary, or more mundane if you will, to us Dutch. So something normal it was to be and then nature helped me a bit. It is the ‘golden season’. Autumn in the Netherlands can be very grey and wet, but it has a beautiful face too. When the sun shines on the leaves of the trees changing colour, the yellow ones radiate as if they are golden. So why not show you ordinary people cycling in that scenery. (See the video at the end of this post.)
With this one hundredth blog post it may be a good time to reflect on why I am writing this blog and why I am making those videos at all. I wrote the first regular post in February 2011 (at the time for David Hembrow’s blog a view from the cycle path) but I’ve been showing you Dutch cycling for much longer. My first video was published in January 2009 which is almost 4 years ago now. Since there are well over 200 videos now, it means I have been making about one video a week for the past four years. So yes, why do I create all that? The answer is simple: because of you and your comments and questions on the internet. This is underlined by the fact that that very first video was about my own long commute. In answer to people saying on the internet: “We couldn’t have commutes by bike because ours are too long”. That first video shows it can be done: my own commute is 55 kilometres (34 miles) one way of which part is done by bicycle.
With this blog I try to make clear that none of the excuses you ever read about why cycling couldn’t be the right option for [insert any region of any country] holds water. What we have in the Netherlands could be emulated in other countries and the Netherlands is not special in any way. It is an ordinary first world country, like so many others, where people do own and drive cars, but where people choose the bicycle as an ordinary means of transportation as well.
My posts and videos are aimed at ordinary people outside the Netherlands who are interested to cycle themselves. By debunking one myth at the time I try to make clear to them that what we have in this country is what they could have too. In an ideal world these people would then take it up with the powers and planners in their own region and they would thus slowly be starting to change things for the better in their own cycling situation. For my broad audience I try to make the posts and videos attractive and helpful in the sense that they actually show how the Dutch do things. I can’t go to the depths that road planners need, but I would like to think that I do fill the gap between the pretty pictures of nice girls on bikes and the boring planning manuals. All the response I got so far is my reward. And as you can tell it is enough to keep me going. I get signs that I am on the right track. Just this week one of the people kindly donating some money to keep all this also financially going wrote me: “The BicycleDutch blog is extremely useful, educational and enjoyable”.
There are other signs too. Being asked to address a group of American Summer students from Boston was a very nice experience and getting the award from AMTS in Pamplona, Spain this year was a great acknowledgement. So was the fact that the alderman of Amsterdam choose to show one of my videos in London recently, to a conference room full of planners and politicians including Norman Baker, the current UK Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department for Transport who watched intently. That is more than I ever hoped for. (You can see videos of the presentations of the entire Go Dutch conference here.)
Also more than I hoped for was the news that the US captial Washington is transforming some of its infrastructure to better accommodate cycling by using one of my videos as a guideline. As flattering as this is; from the plans I can tell they have misinterpreted some of my video. Especially the stop lines and waiting areas for cyclists are totally wrong and should have looked like this. They should have gotten some proper professional advice by a Dutch road planner too. I can only show you what we do here in the Netherlands, but everything needs to be adapted to the actual place where such infrastructure is going to be built. Taking into account traffic volumes, local law and customs, not to mention the fact that the diagrams in that video are not entirely to scale and that every junction is different.
I liked the way things worked out in Budapest much better. At the conference there, there was a team at work of which I was a part. I was able to show how things developed in the Netherlands until now and then the professionals could tell the audience far more in depth how and why things are currently being done in this country.
There is still much more to show. I think a lot of your questions are unanswered and even unasked so far, so I think I will continue my blog for at least some more time.
To celebrate the mile stone of my 100th post a video with beautiful people cycling to music in a beautiful golden scenery in the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. On – let’s not forget – beautiful cycling infrastructure! Enjoy!
Cycling in the ‘golden season’ in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands