The Dutch still cycle just as much, but we pedal less hard | NOW


We want to reduce CO2 and nitrogen emissions and tackle obesity. There is a typical Dutch solution for this: the bicycle. What about our bicycle use? This turns out to be surprisingly constant. But, according to government figures on Tuesday, we now receive help from an electric motor for more than a quarter of the kilometers. Experts see a few points for improvement, they tell

The Netherlands is known worldwide as the cycling country. Do we keep that status? “On average, the bicycle share in the Netherlands has been stable for decades,” says Marco te Brömmelstroet, ‘bicycle professor’ at the University of Amsterdam. “27 percent of all journeys are made by bicycle. That figure is deadlocked.”

“The number of bicycle kilometers has been the same for a long time, about 15 billion kilometers per year”, says Martijn van Es of the Fietsersbond. “That is actually quite special. You would expect it to decline, as society is aging.”

Northern cities score well with the bicycle

And if Amsterdam is not the global cycling capital, according to Van Es it is more likely to be Utrecht, Groningen, Zwolle or Leeuwarden. In these cities, things are actually going even better and considerable investments are being made in cycle paths, cycle streets and large modern parking facilities.

On the other hand, there are regions where things are less successful. “Traditionally you see that in the south of the Netherlands there is less cycling. And in the big cities, Rotterdam is lagging behind.”

“Where it already went well, bicycle use is increasing. Elsewhere it shrinks further. ”

Marco te Brömmelstroet, ‘bicycle professor’ at the University of Amsterdam

According to Van Es, there is a bigger problem in the countryside. Because the level of facilities is declining there, shops and schools are in danger of becoming inaccessible by bicycle. “Municipalities must respond to this with good cycling routes and connections to public transport.”

There is a big and increasing difference between city and country, Te Brömmelstroet agrees. “Where it already went well, bicycle use is increasing. Elsewhere it is shrinking further.”

‘End of stimulation of car use is best measure for bicycles’

Van Es believes that the cabinet has high ambitions for the bicycle for the climate and the fight against obesity. “But realization depends on funding from municipalities and provinces. They have to add half or more. That is a risk because lower authorities are more likely to run out of money.

“The cabinet could lower the standard for co-financing. Such an investment pays for itself on mobility, climate and public health.”

“We should not want to ‘solve’ files. They make the car less attractive, a healthy feedback. ”

Marco te Brömmelstroet, ‘bicycle professor’ at the University of Amsterdam

Te Brömmelstroet believes that in the Netherlands we link mobility too quickly to the ‘congestion problem’. As a result, the bicycle is viewed from the driver’s perspective and we also think too much in terms of time efficiency.

We can come up with anything to encourage bicycle use, says Te Brömmelstroet, but what we really need to do is discourage use of the car. “Subsidies, free parking, lease cars, environmental and health costs. Science has long agreed on this: we must pay full price. And we should not want to ‘solve’ traffic jams. They make the car less attractive, a healthy feedback. . “

Non-elderly people also use an electric bicycle

The ‘bicycle professor’ views the arrival of the electric bicycle with mixed feelings. Where it helps to keep the elderly on their bikes or commuters out of the car, the e-bike can be an improvement. But fit young adults and even students also trade in the pedal bike.

On Monday, new figures from the Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy (KiM) showed that the use of the electric bicycle is rising sharply among people under the age of 65. This now concerns 18 percent of bicycle trips and more than a quarter of bicycle kilometers.

“The electric bicycle is strongly encouraged by the industry. But here too the idea is that being on the road is not useful and that exercise should be made as comfortable as possible.”

Te Brömmelstroet therefore advocates slowing down traffic and sees, for example, more in cozy, busy streets with a mixture of pedal bicycles and pedestrians than in urban bicycle policy aimed at the fastest possible traffic flow. “Those values ​​are difficult to quantify, but they touch the core of our cycling culture.”

“And if you look at the energy consumption per kilometer, the pedal bike offers the most sustainable way of moving. Only skating scores even better.”

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