People often comment on the Dutch and their obsession with the bicycle. Why do they cycle? The fact is they haven’t always.
“Before World War II, journeys in the Netherlands were predominantly made by bike, but in the 1950s and 1960s, as car ownership rocketed, this changed. As in many countries in Europe, roads became increasingly congested and cyclists were squeezed to the kerb.
The jump in car numbers caused a huge rise in the number of deaths on the roads. In 1971 more than 3,000 people were killed by motor vehicles, 450 of them children.
In response a social movement demanding safer cycling conditions for children was formed. Called Stop de Kindermoord (Stop the Child Murder), it took its name from the headline of an article written by journalist Vic Langenhoff whose own child had been killed in a road accident.”
There was lots of resistance to change – but look at it now! Infrastructure was the key. Would you be happy to let your child, grandchild, niece or nephew cycle alone? If the answer is yes – then it’s a good place to cycle.
Currently in the UK 60% of motor vehicle journeys are 1-2 miles. If we could replace many of those journeys with cycling just think how much easier it would be for commercial vehicles, emergency vehicles and those who need their car to get around.
My son is 12… we were recently looking at photos of me at the same age. One really obvious thing we noticed was how empty the streets were. Photos of me and friends on our bikes and skateboards. Playing Kerby. There were about 20 million cars – now there are 38.3 million. It’s happened slowly… slowly enough that no one noticed. Like my hairline – but in reverse.
Unfortunately during my time campaigning I have encountered a lack of conviction from East Sussex County Council who seem intent on keeping the status-quo. It is becoming increasingly obvious that climate change and biodiversity loss are changing the status-quo for us. A point made shockingly clear when watching David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet yesterday.
What can we do?
It’s important to let your local politicians know what you think. They, after all, are there to represent our views.
- Would you support a local car-free day in the high street?
- Would you support restrictions on parking to make space for cycling?
- How about 20mph in residential streets?
- Closing of roads around schools at the start and end of the school day?
All these initiatives are currently being supported by some local councillors / candidates.
Secondly we can lead by example. As a family we only use the car when we have to. If we can walk or cycle we do. That’s not just out of sheer bloody mindedness… I honestly prefer it. Driving is just so stressful and cycling turns a chore into fun with a bit of exercise thrown in. Trip to the post office via the seafront, bit of fresh air, leave the bike outside (no hassle with parking). Makes perfect sense.
Have a watch of the video below and see what you think. Would you be happier to cycle if it was like that? I know I certainly would.
Video courtesy of BicycleDutch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC67YlPrRvsO117gFDM7UePg