King to open Velo-City and other news

Three short news items in this no-post week.

King Willem-Alexander and his wife Máxima cycling in New York on orange bicycles during a state visit.
Royal Opening of Velo-City 2017

The King of the Netherlands will open the Velo-City cycling conference on Tuesday 13th June next, in Nijmegen. For those of my readers who are not familiar with having a royal as the head of state, that is a very high and very unusual honour, making absolutely clear that the Dutch take cycling very seriously. I would have been present at the press conference last Thursday in Arnhem, when this was made public. But unfortunately, right at that time, there were some technical problems with railway switches around Arnhem and all train traffic was stopped. Stranded at just 15 kilometres from Arnhem, my train returned to Utrecht. Which meant I didn’t get the breaking news live, but the director of the Cyclists’ Union was so kind to tweet about it:

King to open Velo-City 2017. You could read it on Twitter first.

This news was picked up quickly and you could read about it all over the internet. But I can add a little fact to all that, that I haven’t seen published yet. After the opening ceremony in Nijmegen, His Majesty King Willem-Alexander will also cycle a part of the high-speed cycle route from Nijmegen to Arnhem! The king has cycled all his life and so have three generations before him. His children cycle too. This gives me the opportunity to show you a video again that I made when King Willem-Alexander took the throne from his mother Beatrix, in 2013. A video about the cycling royals of the Netherlands.

The Dutch royals are no strangers to cycling.

Dutch view on Mandatory Helmet Law

How is it possible that mandating cycle helmets leads to a decreased general road safety? That was one of the questions in a test for over 60,000 students last Friday. In the Dutch educational system schools don’t test their own students. All students must take the same state exam. These – mostly 16-year-old – students were tested for the subject “Dutch” in a school type that prepares them for vocational education. To test if they fully understood an argument in a Dutch text, they were asked to map causal links between Mandatory Helmet Law and a decreased road safety. The quote in the text is from the very influential Cycling Professor Marco te Brömmelstroet.

The actual answer sheet looked like this.

This national exam question also gives a nice insight into how the Dutch generally think about mandatory bicycle helmets: Not good!

Cycling is part of a culture and therefore it remains complicated to transfer Dutch experiences to American or Asian mega cities. “They are often looking for an easy solution for a complex problem. But that doesn’t exist. If you are going to carefully turn just one little wheel in the system you will set a lot of – often conflicting – developments in motion. Take the bicycle helmet. If you make it mandatory, you strengthen the idea that the bike is a dangerous means of transport. That leads to a decrease in the number of cyclists. That again decreases the safety, because the more cyclists there are, the more other road users will consider them. In short: the bicycle helmet increases the individual safety, but decreases the safety in general.”

 (Adaptation of an article ‘Fietsologie’ by Margreet Vermeulen, de Volkskrant, 17 April 2015)


The above text argues that mandating bicycle helmets causes a decreased safety. Place the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the correct sequence of cause and effect in the schedule on your answer form.

  1. the idea that cycling is not safe.
  2. road users who do not consider cyclists.
  3. fewer cyclists.
  4. a decreased safety.

 The bicycle helmet becomes mandatory.

  • This will lead to:
  • This will lead to:
  • This will lead to:
  • This will lead to:

You can find the correct answer at the bottom of this post.

Dafne Schippers opens ‘her’ bridge

You have seen it already in my post a few weeks ago, but now it was also officially opened. Dafne Schippers (24), the athlete from Utrecht, came to the bridge bearing her name, to open it with a whole lot of Utrecht school children. Very appropriate since this is the bridge on top of a primary school. We now also know what Dafne herself thinks about the bridge. In a bilingual tweet (that also makes clear how incredibly similar Dutch and English sometimes are) she called it “Zo cool!”.

Proud tweet from Dafne Schippers herself. She is smiling in the right of the picture.

The city of Utrecht posted a short drone video, showing that “cool” really is the word for this bridge!

Short drone video showing the Dafne Schippers Bridge.

A day after the official opening Stefan Wapstra posted a video with images of the opening day combined with drone shots taken during the construction phase.

The opening and construction of the Dafne Schippers bridge.
(Dutch, but mostly without words.)

Answer to the test question:

The correct sequence of cause and effect is: 1, 3, 2, 4.

8 thoughts on “King to open Velo-City and other news

  1. I can’t believe such an obviously easy question was put on a national exam. Do you know what percentage of students got it wrong?

    To test if students can think for themselves (which is part of what real education should be about) a question should be like: Do you believe the above premise is correct? If not why?

    1. The question is not meant for testing thinking for oneself, but for testing reading, understanding and analyzing a written argument.

      1. There was nothing to analyze in the question. The answer was in fact given in the question. What they should have done is given the students something to think about. How about this cause an effect:

        You give students questions that contains the answers – most students get it right – the school gets more funding – the school is now able to give more bad education so they can keep their funding – the students and society lose.

        1. First, this is a ‘central exam’ question, which means that all students in the Netherlands following the same track would get the same question.

          Second, funding isn’t dependent on results of the students. In contrary, schools with lower than expected results can, in some cases, apply for additional funding to improve. (It’s more complex than that, there’s actually a measurement of ‘entry level’ (measured) vs ‘exit level’ (expected). Schools with many students entering at a lower level, e.g. because of a relative high number of (2nd or 3rd generation) immigrants or students with a ‘handicap’ would get additional funding to achieve the same exit level. If exit level drops due to more complex students entering, additional transition funding could be possible for some time).

  2. Thank you for the wonderful photographs! I’ll return the favor with a link to Canada’s head of state and her sister riding a bicycle:

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