I started writing this last post in November 2019 … but it was winter and the mood maybe wasn’t right – what with Brexit being at the top of everyone’s mind. … But now I think the mood is right, and the time is critical. . .. in fact so critical that I am posting this early (was due for 1st July). We all know we must rebuild our economy AND our infrastructure in a more sustainable and greener way. We know that increased vitamin D helps immunity, we know that being outside in fresh air and exercising increase our well-being, we know too that well-being and immune health are linked.
So I am today writing about cycling.
Until November (when they inexplicably chose to move back to the UK despite the Brexit Crisis) I was fortunate enough to have relatives in the Netherlands, and had visited a few times in recent years. I will therefore start with some observations (and fact reading) I have made on my visits…
- The Netherlands are the most densely populated country in the EU, and one of the most densely populated in the world. (488 people per km2)
- People in the Netherlands therefore mainly live in small apartments, and as such they spend a lot of time out of them in the street cafe’s and such like
- I hate crowds of people and the busy bustling streets of London … yet ….
- Heading there always feels like a relief from the hustle, bustle and noise South East England.
It didn’t take me long to realise that it was the relief of not having the constant drone of traffic noise, and the constant need to hold my breath due to exhaust fumes that made all the difference.
The Dutch are more likely to own a bike than a car. .. in fact I found a 2018 study that said there are more bikes owned than total people in the Netherlands (1.3:1). It’s not a car free country, and their motorway usage has apparently gone up in the past 10 years … but … the cities are not built around car usage. … and so using a car in the city is difficult. … and so it is not really done. The infrastructure is built around bicycles.
We currently don’t have anything like this. When the London bike scheme (Boris Bikes) was brought in, the bikes shared the bus lane – as they do in many cities in the country. I don’t know about you, but I’ve cycled on bus / bike lanes … and I do not feel safe. I used to do it to get to work at the hospital in Leicester I did my early jobs in. I wore a helmet, a big luminous yellow tabbard, and lumious yellow wrist cuffs for when I indicated. I still didn’t feel safe. I never want to cycle like that again and I would never allow my children to do so. It’s quite different in the Netherlands. Cycling there, in cities as well as on the cycling freeways that link cities is a pleasure. It doesn’t feel unsafe, even with no helmet and no yellow tabbard.
The roundabouts have their own cycle lanes, the cycle lanes have their own traffic controls and raised curb edges and best of all the motorised/engine-d traffic has to give way to the cyclist. On top of this the law says that if a cyclist and a motor-vehicle are both involved in an incident it will always be the motorists fault … ALWAYS. Not surprising the Dutch drive very carefully around their cycle-full roads.
Our Transport Secretary has said he is wanting to incentivise cycling and walking post-Covid-19…. We need to BUILD BACK BETTER as the current phrase goes. I think we need to go Dutch. I think we need to put the cyclist first in both law and infrastructure.
I hope we can get our government to think the same. I will be asking for this at “The Time is Now” Virtual Lobby on 30th June. I’d love you to join me.