Cycling in the city – Amsterdam

Cycling in cities has long been recognised as a good thing. There are a lot of environmental, health and congestion benefits. This post is about how to encourage people to get on the bike.

Just back from Amsterdam, and the thing that struck me most… bicycles…. I know… what a geek… I mean… the city has a lot of other slightly more remarkable features… but there you go.

According to the guide book, Amsterdam, with a population of 750,000 people, has 600,000 bikes. That means that people from all demographics… are cycling. Now while I generally ignore what I read in guide books, I believe this one. They are everywhere. In truth, it is wonderful (imo). So… why…

Amsterdam is a very densely populated city, so the distances between places are short enough to cycle

Short distances are definitely a factor. During my time I didn’t see any building that was less than 4 stories, not one, not one in the city centre, not one while out the window of the train out to the Airport (which is 15 minutes out, so that is quite a bit).

Do I believe this is the main reason? Well I’m sure it’s a factor, but in fairness, you don’t see people in other cities using bikes for short trips. Truth is most people in other cities prefer to walk short distances… well prefer to drive, but certainly not cycle.

Amsterdam has a lot of cycle paths, etc.

Well… my question is… which came first? The cycle lanes or the cyclists. My bet is that there was cyclers… then there were cycle lanes. Regularly people tell me that they’re afraid to cycle in cities… so having cycle lanes is important… but I’m not sure its really the key point.

The weather is nice in Amsterdam

While the last few weeks has seen excellent weather in the Netherlands, it could hardly be counted as a tropical climate. It snows and freezes in the winter.

Everyone has a bike in Amsterdam

I think this is important. Most people in other cities don’t have bikes, and so can’t cycle them.

Your bike is safe

Something I couldn’t believe was the casual attitude towards security, using quite flimsy locks. Bikes seem to be relatively safe in Amsterdam. As one who had his bike nicked in recently I can appreciate the importance of this, but its hardly a reason not to cycle.

You don’t need a helmet in Amsterdam

In some jurisdictions you need a helmet to cycle. In Amsterdam you don’t just not need one for a bike, you don’t need one for a scooter. My vote for everywhere, overdoing regulations around these relatively casual forms of transport should be resisted.

Everyone else is doing it

I think this is the key one. To convince my mother to cycle would be a lot easier if her piers were doing it. Problem with this is… it’s a critical mass thing… how do you achieve it.

Anyway, just some of my thoughts on the subject. Anyone got an opinion I haven’t considered?

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4 Responses to Cycling in the city – Amsterdam

  1. Leslie says:

    Cycle paths that fecker in cars did not park on would be something to start with – then proper cycle lanes around the whole city instead of being nudged off the road by trucks and cars.

    I lived in Vienna for a while and it has great cycle paths, and rarely does a bike get stolen.

  2. greennav says:

    Hi Leslie, thanks, I agree that that would help… but I think its more an atitude thing. Maybe we need to build it up over a number of years

  3. [...] mean folloowing on from my post on encouraging people to cycle, and the feedback I recived regarding hills, laziness, and [...]

  4. [...] workers to buy a bike. I’m really for this. The nay-sayers are having a field day saying that it always rains, or that few people are in a position to cycle, but small steps make big differences. If 100,000 [...]

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