“Dutch know how to control bicycle chaos”
American town and country planner Kevin Krizek has analyzed the behaviour of cyclists in the Netherlands for three years and comes to the conclusion: “The Netherlands are light-years ahead”. The professor, who used to live in Boulder, Colorado (US), says “the Dutch know how to control bicycle chaos”.
Krizek (46) was for three years a ‘visiting professor’ at the Radboud University Nijmegen. He is presenting his findings at the world’s Velo-city congress this week in Nijmegen. He says he knew cycling is something special in the Netherlands, but he underestimated how much cycling is woven into all aspects of live in Holland. “40 years of investing and stimulating policy have created a climate where cycing can thrive like no other place in the world”.
How to explain this succes?
“The Netherlands is a densely populated country with lots of provincial cities with 100 to 200.000 inhabitants. Distances in these cities are relatively short and when you take into account the network of bus and train routes which connect these cities, you have a fine network in which cycling can flourish”.
Being a cyclists in the Netherlands for three years now, Krizek noticed that “the Dutch have found a way to semi-control chaos. Cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht, but also Arnhem and Nijmegen are a good example of that. Cars, buses, trams, pedestrians and cyclists form a harmonized mix of transport flows you see nowhere in the world”.
“Cyclists pass each other closely, but accidents rarely occur. In the US this wouldn’t be possible, confrontations would occur more often. The difference is that the Dutch at some point in their lives are all motorist, pedestrian and cyclist. That’s why they know how it works”.
What can other countries learn from the Netherlands?
“The problem is that the Netherlands are light-years ahead on the rest of the world. There are other densely populated areas in the world, but in Holland it’s part of the culture. In other countries people choose the bike because they can’t afford a car. In Holland people choose the bicycle because it is the best solution. That is something you can’t export easily”.
“There is no silver bullet. Every country has to import part of the Dutch example, depending on their own situation. For the Dutch cycling is something obvious, but in Medelin for instance, which has a similar street pattern, hundreds of cyclists are killed each year. So, you don’t have to ask why people aren’t cycling over there”.
“The best way to get acquainted with the Dutch model is to experience cycling yourself. You can make pictures of bicycle paths and crossings, but only when being part of this well lubricated machine, you’ll feel what it means. My wife was hit on the first day she went cycling because she was too busy with her smartphone…”
Dutch are known for not respecting traffic rules…
“This is indeed a cultural peculiarity. Cyclists ignore the red light when possible. I won’t say traffic lights aren’t necessary to save lives, but if you are standing still in front of a ridiculous stop light, it’s logical to ride on”. For the near future Krizek foresees problems with fast e-bikes on the new bicycles routes because with speed going up, the risk for accidents does too.
Americans on the bicycle
In the US one third of 321 million Americans occasionally uses a bicycle. 12 to 14% does this on a regular base, only 0,3% uses it for commuting to work, but it increased by 62.3% between 2005 and 2014. Portland is America’s ‘bicycle city’ out of the 70 largest cities with 7,2% of its residents using the bike.
In the Netherlands 84% of the 17 million inhabitants have a bicycle, being a total of 22,3 million bicycles or an average of 1,3 per inhabitant. 25% of the Dutch prefer the bicycle for distances up to 7,5 km, doing 15 billion km per year, an equivalent to 375 times the circumference of the earth. Women are cycling the most, migrants least of all. Each year 10.000 people get seriously injured in bicycle accidents.