DUTCH CYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE – NSW, you could do this too!

There's nothing special about this cycle way and the windmills in Holland. Elsewhere in the world it would be a marvel and a major tourist attraction.

There’s nothing special about this cycle way in Holland. Elsewhere in the world it would be a marvel and a major tourist attraction.

The Government of NSW (it’s a place in Australia) has just announced that it will rip up one of the few separated cycleways in central Sydney and not replace it until after a new light rail line has been installed – a process that is likely to take 2-3 years! Click here for a summary of the sad story.

They could learn a thing or two from how the Dutch have organised cycling infrastructure.

Today we had to travel from Amsterdam to Beverwijk for a family lunch. It’s about a 60km round trip, it was a fine day, so I decided to do it on the bike, carrying the camera and taking a few shots along the way.

First was a 2km ride through the lovely Rembrandtpark. It's a park, so of course it has a bike path.

The journey began with a 2km ride through Amsterdam’s lovely Rembrandtpark. It’s a park, it’s in Holland, so of course it has car-free bike paths.

From the park I emerged into Amsterdam West. It's an area that is not particularly well-to-do, certainly not full of latte-sipping trendies, but it has bike paths like this.

From the park I emerged into Amsterdam West. It’s an area that is not particularly well-to-do, certainly not full of latte-sipping trendies, but it has bike paths like this. Amsterdam, a city less than a quarter of Sydney’s size, has more than 500km of designated cycle lanes or bike paths.

Sloterdijk Station is one of Amsterdam's major train and bus hubs. So it has plenty of parking for those who need to get there on the bike.

Sloterdijk Station is one of Amsterdam’s major train and bus hubs. So it has plenty of parking for those who need to get there on the bike. Build it and they will come.

Amsterdam's western harbour area is designed for commercial use - warehouses and power plants...and it has an excellent bike path running through it.

Amsterdam’s western harbour area is designed for commercial use – warehouses and power plants…and it has an excellent bike path running through it.

Near the town of Zaandam I needed to cross the North Sea Canal, the waterway that now connects Amsterdam to the North Sea. There's a ferry that takes passengers across every twenty minutes. On this trip, I counted three cars, four motorscooters and twelve cyclists.

Near the town of Zaandam I needed to cross the North Sea Canal, the waterway that now connects Amsterdam to the North Sea. There’s a ferry that takes passengers across every twenty minutes. On this trip, I counted three cars, four motorscooters and twelve cyclists. If each cyclist had arrived by car, a bigger ferry would have been needed.

There's quite a lot of traffic heading out of Zaandam. It would be dangerous to ride in amongst it. But I don't have to. Note the cycleway. s

There’s quite a lot of motorised traffic heading out of Zaandam. It would be dangerous to ride in amongst it. But I don’t have to. Note the cycleway.

The wind was getting up and blowing straight into my face. It was worth a bit of effort and the scenery took my mind off my legs and lungs for a while.

The wind was getting up and blowing straight into my face. It was worth a bit of effort and the scenery took my mind off my legs and lungs for a while.

Yes, Holland is flat. That doesn't mean it's easy riding. That wind was getting stronger.

Yes, Holland is flat. That doesn’t mean it’s easy riding. That headwind was getting stronger.

Mevrouw T arrived at the lunch half an hour before I did, using public transport. Maybe a car would have been faster still, but we don’t have a car here.

But I hope any time the car would have saved has been offset by my improved health. Surely a 60km ride can add 30 minutes to my life expectancy?

If I'd travelled by car I would have missed this...

If I’d travelled by car I would have missed this…

Had I had enough cycling, I could have put the bike on the train (in a designated bike carriage area) to go back to Sloterdijk Station. But that headwind owed me a favour, so I rode back home, this time with the wind behind me.

I happened to pass a pile of dead cars in a scrap metal yard. The guys working there shooed me away, but not before I’d captured this shot…

 'Let op!!' in Dutch means 'Look Out!!'


‘Let op!!’ in Dutch means ‘Look Out!!’

In Sydney I do drive a car. I understand the need for safe roads. I don’t like being stuck in traffic jams. But when cars take overwhelming precedence in a city, something is lost.

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay, I hope you read this blog post. If you’re ever visiting the Netherlands, get in touch. I’ll take you for a ride. I think you’ll enjoy it. And I’d like to have a talk.

Those interested in how the Dutch build serious cycling infrastructure should take a look at Mark Wagenbuur’s excellent blog, Bicycle Dutch.

17 Comments

Filed under Amsterdam, Cycling, Holland

17 responses to “DUTCH CYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE – NSW, you could do this too!

  1. The NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay (no relation),calls himself a “cycle sceptic”.He hates bicycles and wants to get rid of our scarce cycleways and built bigger roads into Sydney in order to “relieve traffic congestion”, Winning him over with a pleasant cycle through Amsterdam would be a bit of a long shot but a generous gesture on your part. Good luck!

    • Yes, we’re starting a long way back when a minister is not just indifferent, but apparently actively hostile to cyclists. You and I and Amsterdam need to charm him. Otherwise threaten or bribe him. Or just vote for someone else.

  2. You make a good case Richard, I hope he listens. We could do with more cycle paths in the UK.

  3. I think any NSW Minister would state a case that they are only reflecting what the community wants. In this case, that’s true. The complete ascendancy of the cult of the car, as a personal fiefdom barrelling down suburban streets at are-they-kidding kph, as a means of asserting some small authority in this “quote-bicycle-lane-world-unquote”, as an expression of the driver as a DRIVER – this does not lend itself to a cycling friendly environment.

    • All depressingly true, Ricky, except for the encouraging fact that Dutch cycling infrastructure developed as a result of strong advocacy by cycling lobbies and despite opposition from some quarters. The battle still continues.

  4. Richard ….. It just makes good sense!!! I don’t get why it doesn’t happen. And please no more cycleways sharing with pedestrians who are wired with ipods and don’t hear your bells anyway. I have always thought in Sydney we could make use of the land adjacent to our rail networks as cycle freeways or corridors. So many people cycle in Sydney now.

    • Quite right, Pete. A Greenway along the Dulwich Hill light rail route extension should have been an absolute no-brainer.

      • Driving down to Sydney CBD on Sunday (from Central Coast) and I guess it doesn’t help with the aggressive manner that a lot of weekend cyclists exhibit in traffic. I get that it is a survival thing staking your rightful claim to the road but a lot of angst builds up. I think better infrastructure would go a long way to help.

  5. Pete, there are a couple of points on my regular Sydney rides where I too become an aggressive, middle-of-the-lane hog. Crossing the Cooks River on the Wardell Rd bridge, for one. I used to choose between crawling in the gutter or riding on the footpath there – both risky options. Now I take my lane, making it clear that no car can squeeze past me.

    In NL such a bridge would certainly have a separate bike lane, making it safe for all.

  6. I agree that there are times when it is safer to be assertive than submissive and am in that position many times on my regular rides. I just think our honourable minister is one of those who views any cyclist as some kind of hindrance to anyone in a car. Which is why I don’t understand why he doesn’t support making a safer option/infrastructure for both. Maybe he just thinks that cyclists should not exist at all and by excluding facilities we shall all just go away???

  7. Emma

    Thanks for this great post. It made me sad (and a little hopeful) for NSW.

  8. Rick Kayess

    To me, pulling out the cycle path for trams is actually worse than if it was for a road project. I mean, Light Rail? Come on, what’s next, a canal down George Street for commuting by Gondola taxi? Light Rail is inefficient and inflexible public transport and a waste of infrastructure dollars. What can Light Rail do that buses can’t ? It’s just faddish foolery.
    Rick.

    • Well, a small point in favour of Light Rail is that I can take my bike on it. As yet I can’t do that on a bus. Some places in the world (Denmark and Chicago to name a couple where I’ve noticed it), buses have bike racks on the back.

      • Good point about bikes and light rail. Jill and I are about to take the light rail with our bikes which is allowed—at the discretion of the conductor—when it’s not crowded. I don’t know if they kick cyclists off if lots of people get on. (By the way, I saw a doctor recently and mentioned a recent bike spill. She said that she and her husband, a kidney specialist, refer to cyclists as “doners”.)

  9. Like the ‘donors’ monicker, Duncan. Reminded me of Dame Edna’s resistance to eating kebabs – ‘You never know who the donor was.’

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