An article on really caught my attention. It is about a new series of ads in Norway on safely sharing the road. This is one of the videos:

Look familiar?

What I found really interesting is how scathing the article is of the organisation that created the ads, the Norwegian Road Directorate – Statens Vegvesen. The author says of it:

An organisation so jurassic in their transport mentality that they have to serve lunch outside every day because it will fossilise the moment it enters the building. An organisation that, despite their proximity to Denmark and Sweden, refuse to accept curb-separated cycle tracks in their “design” guide for bicycle infrastructure. An organisation that is so rooted in a last century ideology about traffic that the Transport Ministry in previous Norwegian government got so tired of hearing the same car-centric rhetoric that they commissioned a report about increasing cycling from other companies.

Again sound familiar? No, you are right, AT is completely different. It, ummmm, isn’t in proximity to Sweden and Denmark?

Some positive stuff - a nice cycle bridge in Trondheim
Some positive stuff – a nice cycle bridge in Trondheim

For me, Norway and Belgium represent great illustrations of the point that in order to recreate the cycle culture that existed in NZ cities pre-1950s, we must create a cycle friendly road environment. This means slowing cars on non-arterial roads, creating more direct routes for cyclists and putting in place separated cycle paths on arterial roads. In other words, all the things the Danish and especially the Dutch have done to create a cycle culture.

Norway and Belgium (and in particular Oslo and Brussels) have failed to do these things. This means that despite cultures and even languages (Flemish/Dutch, Norwegian/Danish) that are so similar, their cycling rates are only slightly better than you would find in New Zealand. There are some exceptions like Trondheim in Norway (with a 10% cycle share) but overall it is not great.

Cycle lane Trondheim
A cycle lane in Trondheim – but why on the outside of the parked cars?

And what is the reason for this failure in Norway? After all, it can’t be culture and it can’t be money (Norway is swimming in it). Of course it is political will, the same thing that is lacking in Auckland. Again the author says that Statens Vegvesen is:

An organisation with an employee who responds to a question at a conference earlier this year about why cycle tracks like in Denmark and the Netherlands aren’t standard design by saying, “We can’t just import all sorts of foreign ideas…” An organisation in one of the only countries in Europe with a falling cycling level, that has failed to – or refuses to – see that “sharing the road” is not something that actually gets people onto bicycles.

It is like looking in a mirror.

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