DUTCH CYCLING SERIES: Shift, a company of behavioral scientists based in Nijmegen, fixed a congested local cycle path using duct tape, as shown in the below video.
It’s clearly a promotional video but it has a few messages:
- Cycling in the Netherlands is not perfect.
- Councils should not just build cycling infrastructure and leave it there — travel demand, pattern, and volumes change, and sometimes infrastructure isn’t used as expected from the start.
- Simple changes changes can make a big difference and the details of a design clearly do make real-world differences.
Nice One!….Keep It Simple!
Ah, Nijmegen: how it all takes me back to the eleven happy months that I worked there, back in 2006-07, when I didn’t own a car (because I didn’t need to) and actually used to enjoy my daily journey to and from work: all but 200m of it on segregated cycle tracks. Using duct-tape to guide traffic flow, though: the cheerful practicality of the Dutch never ceases to charm me. A deeply pragmatic nation, they shape their solutions to what people are actually doing, rather than imposing the solutions upon the people.
I don’t think you could do it in an Irish/UK context, though. As you will see from the video, nearly everyone rides the same type of bicycle – the ubiquitous black upright “omafiets”, basically unchanged since the 1900s – and everyone therefore rides at about the same speed of 8-9mph, in very much the same manner: no Lycra and no tearing along trying to complete Strava segments, which would be totally pointless anyway since the great rush-hour crowds of cyclists effectively prevent you from going any faster than the rest. The superb and long-established Dutch cycling infrastructure has produced a peculiar cycling ecosystem (though similar ones exist in Denmark and Germany) while the total lack of any coherent cycling infrastructure in Ireland and Britain has likewise produced its own ecosystem – basically survival of the fastest – which has now been there so long that you’d find it very difficult to accomodate to Dutch-style infrastructure even if that suddenly appeared by magic: neither the underlying mentality nor suitable bikes are there to make it work. The English-speaking countries have paid a heavy price for the Vehicular Cycling cult, which never gained a footing in Holland since the writings of the prophet Forester were never translated into Dutch – and if anyone ever read them in English, they plainly made no sense whatever and were tossed into the nearest canal.
@John — the recorded average speed for cyclists in Dublin is the same as that for Amsterdam.
As for omafiets, there’s mostly upright bicycles shown in the video but they are most definitely not all cheap omafiets bikes. If anything the average speeds in the Netherlands might be creeping up given the frowning popularity of electric bicycles.
Dublin is in fact very similar to most Dutch cities in its topography – Nijmegen has a few low hills as well – and is probably no wetter, given that pelting Dutch rain always seems a lot more intense than the drizzly Irish variety. And yes, when I was in Dublin a few weeks back (I live in France) the present-day cycling scene struck me as turning of its own accord into something resembling that of continental Europe despite the generally bitty and uncoordinated nature of the cycling provision: plenty of scope for building something much better if there was the political will to do it. Plan it properly, build it, maintain it, and it will certainly be used.
Of course, in the Netherlands the political will was there. In the early 1970s the official doctrine was that the car would eventually rule and the bicycle would go the way of the horse as a means of transport: in some cities existing cycle tracks were being dug out for road-widening schemes. But then came the “Stop de Kindermoord” (“Stop the Massacre of the Innocents”) campaign as deaths soared among children cycling to school; which happened to coincide with the 1973 Oil Crisis and the fact that Holland – unlike Britain – had North-Sea gas but no oil. From then on official traffic-planning policy went into reverse, and the underlying doctrine became that of actively discouraging use of motor cars for journeys of less than 5km by making it much simpler and quicker to cycle or use public transport. But that was possible in the Netherlands because everyone from the royal family downwards has ridden a bike since childhood, so the idea that driving a car is the God-ordained state of humanity was never as deeply ingrained as it was in the English-speaking countries.
There are always solutions… all it takes is people with brains (and duct tape!). Here we need more off-road cycle lanes, that would be a good start.
Excellent video. Nicely done.