Groningen traffic jam
Traffic congestion – Groningen style

Some of the amazing cycling statistics that come out of the Netherlands (e.g. Groningen, a town of almost 200,000 people in the north of the Netherlands, where nearly 60% of all journeys are made by bicycle) seem almost beyond belief. This despite the fact that in the 1950s and 1960s many Dutch cities, including Groningen, had been re-engineered to be car friendly (just as in NZ).

A Stop de Kindermoord protest in Museumplein – Amsterdam

But of course the Dutch fought back against this encroachment by cars and gained a shift in focus to a pedestrian and cycling friendly focus. They were outraged by the killing of children by motor vehicles (something NZers don’t seem to care about, despite appalling statistics) and expressed this in the Stop De Kindermoord protests. One comment you constantly hear when reading about Groningen is how quiet it is – noise pollution from vehicles being something that I think people really dislike about cities and that adds to our stress.

Peace and quiet in central Groningen

Yet the Dutch are not sitting still, they continue to increase funding and infrastructure to meet the ever growing demand for cycling. There appears to be no saturation point for that demand, despite the fact the Netherlands population is not really growing. That suggests more and more people are choosing to make trips by bicycle.

An amazing fact is that the motoring organisation in the Netherlands, the Royal Dutch Touring Club ANWB, began life as a cycling organisation and now represents all transport users. In the Netherlands there appears to be no “war on cars” – the vast majority of people recognise that cars, bicycles and public transport are different transport tools that all have different jobs to do. Trying to move large numbers of people in central cities at peak times using cars is like trying to put a screw in with a hammer.

Once cycling dominates, there appears to be little dissatisfaction with the transport system as with car dominated cities in Australasia and North America. In the Netherlands there is no community led, volunteer organisation like CAA set up to promote car travel or agitate for motorists to have more parking and road access. That tells me most people recognise the value in having bicycles dominate the urban transport system.

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