All about cycling in the Netherlands
The Dutch Cyclists’ Union (Fietsersbond) has created a Cycle Vision for 2040 with dreams, ideas and wishes for a cycle friendly society in 2040. Last February the active members discussed about the final draft at a meeting in Utrecht and then voted on it. A fundamental question needed to be answered first: “Who are the people the Cyclists’ Union represents and what type of bicycle do they ride?” To make that more concrete, the Cyclists’ Union introduced a new concept: the Cycle Family.
The Fietsersbond (Cyclists’ Union) is firmly committed to making safe and comfortable cycling possible, thus attributing to a more livable, healthier and more active Netherlands and to creating cycling happiness for all.
Mission statement, established at the member meeting of 2 February 2019.
Prior to the important meeting that would lead to a vote about the Vision and its implications, I gave a presentation. My rich video archive contains ten years’ worth of images of people cycling on all sorts of bicycles. So it was easy for me to visualise that Cycle Family. The notion of the Cyclists’ Union representing all those very different people and types of bicycles is quite a step for some in the organisation. But the time that we only had two-wheeled bicycles in a men’s or ladies’ version is long over.
Saskia Kluit, the director of the Cyclists’ Union, sees it as follows: “When I started working for the Cyclists’ Union ten years ago, you could – in a manner of speaking – just about choose the colour of your bicycle and not much else. There is so much more choice now! Bicycles with three or four wheels, with or without electric support, smart bicycles that growl when they are being stolen or cargo bikes that can carry enormous loads. An entire family of bicycles is riding around in our country nowadays. All the people riding all those bicycles have a shared interest that binds them: cycling makes you happy and it should stay that way!”
The Cyclists’ Union was founded in 1975 and has been looking after the interests of cycling for 44 years now. Starting as an advocacy group the Union now has about 35,000 members and more than 1,500 active volunteers in 150 local chapters, who are actively working for (even) better cycling in the Netherlands. The Union has evolved from a group of activists into a respected advisory board to answer all possible questions from many municipalities regarding cycling and cycle friendly infrastructure.
But the Cyclists’ Union wants to be more than just a cycling infrastructure knowledge base. After all, cycling is not a goal in itself, it is a means to live your life comfortably. The Cyclists’ Union has a vision for a better Netherlands in which the bicycle can be seen as a happiness machine.
“In 2040 the Netherlands will have been designed in such a way that people can choose from multiple cycle routes that would require more or less effort and would offer more or less diversion. Would you rather cycle in a green environment or through the city, with a lot of other people or perhaps almost alone? Anything is possible. Cycling still requires some exercise, but for those who need to go far or those who can only make a limited effort, there are means to help.
Impediments that would constrain the freedom of cycling are unwanted, there will be no helmets, number plates or hi-vis clothing.
Routes will have been designed to make cycling attractive, also for people who cycle less now, and for new types of bicycles. There will be a new network that is also suitable for faster and heavier bicycles: the Cycle Family Network. People of all ages, who want to cycle in a protected no-stress environment, will get their relaxed cycle network. Developments that would stand in the way of cycle happiness will be countered. Everywhere, safe cycling will come first. Less car traffic and excellent cycling infrastructure will reduce the number of injuries considerably and there will no longer be cycle deaths.”
“The Cycle Vision 2040 is meant to help our volunteers to look ahead” says Saskia Kluit, “as a member organisation you want to work towards something. That reduces the risk you are only occupied with the issues of the day. When a road is redesigned now, it will stay that way for decades to come. The Vision 2040 is meant to give our volunteers a tool to work with that given.”
Saskia Kluit, gives a copy of the Cycle Vision 2040 to a politician in the northern province of Friesland.
The vision also carries a manifesto to become more diverse in ages and cultural background. The Cyclists’ Union would like to have fewer barriers for people to come and help out. It is easier for people to join a club when they find members from their own age group and background.
The future the Cyclists’ Union envisions is one that is safe, healthy and clean. A future that offers a great freedom to ride, also at night as a woman or a child, also when you have a bicycle that is bigger or faster. You can choose what route suits you best at any particular moment, the fast way home or the relaxed and winding way. Happy people in a friendly society. Many of the ideas of the Cyclists’ Union seemed far-fetched and unrealistic in the 1970s. Unfortunately they still do in many countries of the world, but in the Netherlands many of those ideals became a reality. It is great that the Cyclists’ Union continues to dream. I’d love to experience that future in 2040 at the age of 75, zooming away on my e-bike…
The webpages about the Cycle Vision 2040 are – so far – only available in Dutch.
Video with my view of the Cycle Family in the Cycle Vision 2040 of the Cyclists’ Union.