A Dutch team will go to Nevada this week, aiming to break the world speed record for a recumbent bike – 133kph. The record distance ridden in an hour is 91.5km. Good luck, Nederlanders!
Mevrouw T found the news in the Dutch paper NRC and handed it to me for publication to the world. The accompanying article argues that if the Netherlands had long distance cycleways dedicated to high speed bikes, even more people would be encouraged to ride to work rather than using their cars, with the obvious benefits to public health and the environment.
At present most Dutch bike commuters use their bikes for trips of under 7.5km. If they could ride faster and still be safe, the argument goes, they’d ride the longer distances too.
The bikes themselves are already getting faster, particularly with the rise in popularity of the e-bike. Sales of electric bikes accounted for 14% of the Dutch market last year. The team leader of the speed record attempt, Hajo Pereboom from Delft Technical University estimates that an average cyclist could comfortably ride their recumbent vehicle at 70kph. The problem is, would you have to go to the Nevada desert to do it?
Holland is already famous for its cycling infrastructure, surely the envy of the world, with bike paths separated from cars through every town and beside all major roads. But those who want to ride fast face a choice between dawdling along a crowded bike path with others riding the usual 15-20kph on their upright city bikes, or mixing it with the cars on the main road. Riding a recumbent in traffic, below a driver’s eye level is a very bad idea.
Hence the high speed cycling corridor proposal. For a small cost, fast cycling paths could be laid along existing motorways.The sheikh of Qatar, deciding that his subjects were too fat, recently commissioned Dutch consultants Goudappel to design a 40km cycleway, covered and air- conditioned. The cycleway is complete, but the air-conditioning is not yet working. I wonder if anyone’s using it.
Meanwhile the Dutch transport ministry has spent millions upgrading sixteen ‘fast cycle routes’ in places where traffic jams have been a regular problem for cars. They are already operating between The Hague and Rotterdam, and between Amsterdam West and Haarlem. It’s a start, but there are still limitations, according to bike lobbyists. The surfaces are good and there are few traffic lights, but too many sections are shared with motor vehicles, they say.
Sebastiaan Bowier, who will be the rider in the world speed record attempt, claims that even stopping at traffic lights he averages 37kpm on his 20km commute from Scheveningen to Leiden. He doesn’t ride the recumbent designed for the record; that bike can’t take bends and topples sideways when stopped at lights – embarrassing.
But put a third wheel on it and anyone could ride it 50kpm – easily. All it needs is the right bike track.