Can Sydney Go Dutch?

When I posted on Facebook that I would spend my holidays in Australia this year, I soon received a message from someone of the city of Sydney. “Would it be possible for you to do a talk?” “I could certainly do that!” was my answer. Sydney was not part of my tour of Australia in March 2017 and I love to do my work as an ambassador, so why not do a talk now, on my holidays?

Can Sydney go Dutch? A question the city asked itself on the occasion of my talk.
With my immediate family on an iconic location. This was a very special trip!
You haven’t really been to Australia if you haven’t cuddled a kangaroo, now have you?

This year’s tour was a big one. I had been to Australia with my mother two times before, in 2008 and 2013, to visit her (now deceased) aunt and many cousins, who almost all have children and grandchildren themselves now. The number of my relatives in Australia goes in the dozens. This time my sister and her two adult children also came along. Via Hongkong the five of us made a tour of Queensland (Cairns, Townsville, Charters Towers and Brisbane) and for the final days of our holiday we flew to Sydney.

In the Australian outback, starting here in Charters Towers, this pole had already gone Dutch!
My relatives saw nothing special about this man cycling at Bondi Beach. When I explained that he could get an Aus$330 fine for not wearing the obligatory plastic hat, they almost wouldn’t believe me.

The city of Sydney had kindly organised a night in Customs House near the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. I was the only speaker at this free event. We had a very interesting crowd and I was genuinely surprised to see almost half the hands go up when I asked who had visited the Netherlands already.

Holiday or not, I am always seeing cycling infratructure… this from my hotel room in Brisbane.
I also spoke as a representative of the Dutch Cycling Embassy.

In my presentation I show a bit of history to explain how and why the Netherlands has come to what it is now. Some of that history is globally similar and therefore I also added some historical images of Sydney. Last year’s trip to Australia had also given me the opportunity to see a lot of good Australian examples of (cycle) infrastructure. I used some of those in this presentation, that I adapted especially for this one event. To again share some of those examples with a larger audience I now made a short video about the trip that includes some of my presentation.

Nice to see something of home in Sydney. The artist who created Miffy was from Utrecht as I am.
I was very kindly received in Sydney.
A picture with the (almost) entire audience!

The reception in Sydney was very warm. I cannot thank Fiona Campbell and Mark Ames representing the city of Sydney enough for having me and for organising this event. Thanks also to the many people who came to see me. I was very pleased to see the consul-general for the Netherlands in Sydney who told me he had enjoyed my talk very much. Many people were really enthusiastic, before the talk already, but fortunately also after they’d seen it. I tried to make clear that I think the time to look around for examples is over now. For Sydney and for so many other cities in the world. Stop looking around, start acting. In the case of Sydney the city is already acting, and in a good way. I sincerely hope the Cycling Action Plan, that is now in its conceptual stage, will soon become visible in the streets of Sydney, because I think that it would change the city for the better.

My video about my recent presentation in Sydney, Australia.


4 thoughts on “Can Sydney Go Dutch?

  1. Thanks for the post. I’ve seen those wonderful examples in Perth. Unfortunately here, the effects of punitive laws against cycling are underestimated in terms of repressing numbers. It further leads to a hysterical outlook on cycling, hand-in-hand with a shaming environment (i.e. espousing you must wear helmets and hi-viz). For many, this is simply unattractive proposition, so they drive. Qld and WA have low enforcement of helmet laws and are enjoying more uptake of transport cycling. Amusingly, I saw a paper recently that showed that driving in Melbourne is more dangerous than cycling in Amsterdam 😀

  2. Australia’s legal requirement for use of cycle helmets is the elephant in the room here. Unfortunately where I come from, Ireland, anti-cyclist local politicians and populist windbag radio station hosts, love to remind people that helmets are a legal requirement in Australia and we should do the same. They of course totally ignore the progressive Dutch where cycling is “normalised”… they are just too thick to understand what the Dutch are doing and how their infrastructure benefits all road users including drivers.

  3. Can Chicago go Dutch? O’Hare International Airport is considering access to the airport from the west. The only access is through Chicago in the east. A bicycle facility with bike share would be a real asset in the Western Access project given all the safe trails in the suburbs.

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