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How the Dutch got their cycle paths

How the Dutch got their cycle paths


The Netherlands has the world’s
largest number of cyclists, but it is also the safest place in the
world to cycle. That is largely because of the perfect
cycling infrastructure, that can be found throughout the country. How did the Dutch get this network of high quality cycle paths? Some think, including many Dutch themselves, that cycle paths have
always been there. That is only partly true. Yes, there were some cycle paths, but they were of an entirely different
type than today. Narrow, of poor surface, dangerous or even absent
at junctions and not connected. And cycle paths weren’t really necessary, Cyclists outnumbered other
traffic by far. After World War II everything changed. The Dutch had to rebuild their country and they became incredibly wealthy. From 1948 to 1960 the average income got up by 44% and by 1970 it was a staggering 222% more. People could now afford expensive goods. And from 1957 on especially this led to many more cars in the
streets. Streets of mostly old cities that were not
built for cars. So buildings were demolished to make
room for the car. Even some of the old cycling infrastructure
was removed. City squares were turned into car parks. And new developments had huge roads for
motorized traffic. The daily travelled distance went from 3.9 kilometers in 1957 to 23.2 kilometers in 1975. But this “progress” came at a terrible
cost. Cycling was marginalized; it decreased by
6% every year and 3,300 lives were lost in 1971 alone. Over 400 of these deaths were children under the age of 14. The slaughter of kids got people on the streets. To protest. “Stop the child murder” called for safer streets for children as pedestrians and cyclists. Their calls were heard. Especially when in 1973 the first oil crisis halted the
country. The then prime minister told the people
of the Netherlands, that this crisis was life changing. That they would have to change their
ways and be less dependent on energy. But that that was possible
without a decrease in the quality of life. Policies to encourage cycling fitted perfectly in that picture. The car free Sundays to save oil were a reminder to people of what the cities looked like
without cars. Around this time, the first city centers
were made car free, permanently. And the protests continued. Mass motorization killed people, the cities and the environment. Mass cycling tours through the cities of the Netherlands
and smaller protests in favor of cycling facilities created an awareness that eventually changed thinking about
transport policies. In the mid 1970s municipalities started experimenting
with complete and safe cycle routes away from traffic. Financed by the national government, the first cycle routes were created,
from scratch, in Tilburg and The Hague. In retrospect they could be seen as the start of the
country’s modern cycling policies. Cycling increased in a
spectacular way. In The Hague by 30 to 60% and in Tilburg by 75%. “Build it and they will come” proved true in the Netherlands. So to sum it up. What caused the changes in the
Netherlands? There were the problems of: cities that couldn’t cope with the
increasing traffic. That led to demolishions and to a public
outrage over the amount of space handed over to motorized traffic. An intolerable number of traffic deaths that
again led to mass public protests. An oil crisis and an economic crisis
that led to gas shortages and high prices of energy. The solution was found in the political
will on a national and municipal level with both decisionmakers and planners to deal with this situation. By turning away from car centric policies and making way for alternative transport, like cycling. Cycling is now an integral part of
transport policies. And what success did the protesters have? The child deaths went down
from over 400 to 14 last year. This street got its cycle path. This bridge didn’t keep its cycle lane, instead it got a cycle path. This painted cycle lane, became a permanent cycle path and cars were totally banned from here. It is the now famous site
of the “I amsterdam” sign. Earlier, also a site of
one of the mass protests. The protesters would have been a lot
more comfortable lying down there today. The Netherlands’ problems were and are
not unique. Their solutions shouldn’t be that either.

100 comments on “How the Dutch got their cycle paths

  1. I think these cycling paths wouldn't solve traffic problems in Indonesia tho. Many major big cities here located in hot-humid environment. Light-skin is still considered as the beauty standard and being exposed to sun during cycling would get your skin darker, and just couple of minutes paddling would get you coated in sweat….
    Even if the govt somehow convinced people to use bicycle, they wouldn't get the cycling paths without demolishing some buildings near the streets… from a recent event, Jakarta governor, demolished an entire slum neighbourhood and built square park in its place, many people criticized him for not being 'in his own people's side'– though the governor already built some vertical housing to replace the slums for free! (you only have to pay 8USD every month if I'm not mistaken). So… that'd be major conflict if the govt decided to make cycling paths.

  2. For comparison: In the USA, the same thing happened in the 20s, but the car industry made up the term “jaywalker” (extremely derogatory back then), to give everything but cars a bad rep. And so, when the cities grew and changed, they were built for cars, and cars alone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxopfjXkArM
    Now things are too far from each other, and it’s very hard to go back to the streets being for everyone.

  3. I want to move to the Netherlands! I love biking! I would bike everywhere if I could, but I live in the eastern US and there are not many bike lanes at all. They are trying to improve, but of course it is taking a while and I don't think it will come close to what it is like in the Netherlands.

  4. So why is it that n the likes of the U.K some cyclists are considered a dam right nuicence to others ( motorist usually) Yes! i do agree that some cyclists don't behave SENSIBLY! on the roads ( riding without hands & NO LIGHTS!!! & STUPID wheelies! 👎) These are the one's that give the SENSIBLE cyclists a bad name. But, then there are some so called motorist that are just as PATHETICALLY STUPID ASWELL!!! AGGRESSIVE & DANGEROUS driving, using their phones while driving cutting across a cyclist at the very last second. etc, etc, etc. So, why don't the Dutch come here & try help with a idea or three for the the U.K & if proven successful ( all being well) maybe it could be appreciated & approved in the likes of the U.S /Canada. Because it seems the Dutch have mastered it where as as other countries haven't.

  5. 2:26 "The slaughter of kids got people on the streets to protest"!
    Really, in USA alone die 2000 kids under 16 every year, and they don't give a f***!
    https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/810853

  6. A lot of images are archive material from Utrecht. Having seen on Onzichtbaar Nederland what Utrecht used to look like before they brought in the hammer, I am all for a full stop ban on above-ground motorways within city limits. If there would be one word to describe the sheer amount of devastation brought to a, once beautiful, 19th century station district, then the only fitting word is "criminal".

    And, mind you, I am not even a tree hugger that hates cars – but if city planners want to build a motorway through a city – they will either build it underground (without disturbing a single stone above ground) or they will not build it at all.

  7. how can this be achieved in places like Sydney where its one of most car dependant cities? im sure there have been children deaths in Sydney too but no one seems to be protesting?? we need more cycle lanes!!

  8. It's interesting how in wealthy and civilized countries people are proud of travelling around by bike or public transport, whereas in shitholes like the USA, much of Southern and Eastern Europe, Africa, etc., where the mentality "My engine is bigger than yours" reigns supreme, if you cycle or bus to work you are considered a poor loser. I know some of you will jump to contradict me, and I know there are exceptions to what I've just said — but I lived in those places and thus I speak from experience. Good on you, Dutch people.

  9. Hmm the old infrastructure is considered safe these days in anywhere not cycle friendly aka not Netherlands

  10. I used a cycle lane today in the UK.  Had to bunny hop over the 5mm curb I needed to take at about 20 degrees.  15 seconds later I need to wait to re-join the live carriageway.  I wont be using it again

  11. Hi Mark,
    Last week I did use the video in a lessons for students for the minor Project management en processes..Just to show that a process which has let to the present situation in the Netherlands is not an overnight job but an ongoing process with a lot of programs and projects.
    They were are very impressed. Especially about the reduction of road casualties.
    See you.

  12. It also helps that The Netherlands is very level. Where I lived, the cycleways went up and down for hills and intersections. Still, better than no cycleways.

    Also, those roads, paths and cycleways looked incredibly clean and well maintained. None of that happens in the UK. Potholes, raised drain covers, loose gravel etc, make cycling on roads even more hazardous. The size of lorries has increased without taking into account space needed on the roads or their detrimental effect on surrounding buildings and the psychological affect on pedestrians.

  13. This is a very good video. I support cycling. However, it should also be mentioned the Netherlands also has something that a lot of other countries don't and that is that it is very flat and countries that are very flat are a lot more practical for cycling.

  14. Pshh! You Westerners complain too much, harden the fuck up! – signed by Cyclist from Istanbul (where you Carpe Diem every ride… LOL)

  15. I wish they did the same in the US. Living in Boston there seems to be plenty of cyclists. I would like to be one, too but riding alongside cars seems dangerous.

  16. I wonder why this has never caught on in any other country. I think the Netherlands are the only bicycle centric country on the planet.

  17. Interesting, but it seems the dutch had cycling in their DNA which lead them to push for cycling infrastructure in the right circumstances. In other countries those same circumstances might lead to pressure for better public transport for example.

  18. And all idiots in our poor country want a car. They feel so good and proud when sitting in a car wearing a tie in the traffic jam.

  19. I never knew, but now that we have been living here for almost a year I can see why. Nowadays if you own a car and its electric here you get a tax break, I am sorry I lived in the US and never heard of something like that, I think I finally found my home.

  20. I visited Utrecht last July, I was told by my Boss that He arranged Bike so that I can reach office. I woke up in the morning and got down to look at my bike, There are bicycles around and No Bike, I called the lady who arranged everything and she came and pointing at bicycles she told me that here is your bike. I was shocked as for Indians Bike is Motorbike. Then I started Journey to office and all around me, Kids, Ladies, Old People everyone is on bicycles… What a country.. I have immense Respect for Dutch People. and I enjoyed my Bike journey for Next two Weeks. I felt much healthier those two weeks because of compulsory Exercise Twice or thrice everyday. Most important riding on bicycles is not seen as low status symbol in Netherlands.

  21. I couldn't imagine having this in New York City or Los Angeles, then people wouldn't have anything to road rage over…

  22. My question to this is "WHY DO DUTCHIE'S NOT WEAR HELMETS"??? All those people with NO helmets. Particularly little kids with no helmets. What's with that?? Who cares if the law says you "helmet's are optional". This is ridiculous. Cycling is awesome, but no helmets???? A helmet saved my life in February 2015, if I weren't wearing a helmet that day, then I wouldn't be here writing this now.

  23. Having grown up in Holland and now living in the UK. I have to say that I did not appreciate the bliss I grew up in.

  24. I am Dutch myself haha, and what a great video! It is perfectly normal to cycle to school every day for me, it is just over 6km each way here.
    Maybe translate (or just out text on the video) of translations of the posters of the protesters, they are quite good slogans (that is probably why they were photographed in the first place)

  25. The Netherlands do not have a big car and truck industry like e.g. in Germany. And this industry rules the country. That's why we have in Germany a much too small infrastructure for cycling and public transportation, which is also in a particularly miserable condition.

  26. This only works in a country of polite intelligent people like Denmark. In new york city you can't take your bicycle in many parks because groups of thieves throw plastic sheets over you and steel your bike.

  27. the Netherlands had 2500KM of tram track, the steam tram became obsolete. the routes of the tram tracks were converted to simple gravel bicycle paths. further development went from there.

    that's the short answer.

  28. As a Singaporean. I'm pretty impressed by your people's progress. We're starting to improve ours too. Thank you Dutchmen and the Danish for making cycling great again!

  29. my respect to Netherlanders, wonderful and unique, that was one of the things i most wanted to see when i came here, wish many other countries would do the same.

  30. Sadly I don't see such a wonderful movement happening in Ireland anytime soon. There simply is not any will to change the status quo. Too many people are too rooted in their cars, too lazy minded, too physically unhealthy, too stressed and too unhappy, yet too comfortable sitting in misery in queues behind other cars , and being irrationally angry at any cyclists they see whizzing by them. We need another oil crisis to wake people up a bit.

    While we will probably get there eventually, I think I will long be dust before that happens.

  31. I wish we had more cycle paths in America. I love longboarding, scootering and cycling and I wish there was more places for it. The problem is the paths that are made… they don't keep them maintained… too much debris, potholes, cracks etc.

  32. Bicycledutch The footage of traffic from decades earlier is surreal and sobering. Governments usually sell change as progress. Any problems that happen as a result need to be mitigated, but no one should stand in the way of progress.
    The people of the Netherlands realized the changes around them and rejected the problematic consequences. The majority made their opinions clear, and the government adapted.

    There is so much to admire about the Netherlands. The Dutch are lucky to have a responsive government, and the people are great for taking a stand and being a part of creating the bicycle infrastructure that you have.

    Could you please consider creating a video on how the system is modified and maintained? What drives and controls change in creating, modifying or cancelling a bicycle lane? Also, how is the road maintained, what triggers a maintenance work order for the cycle paths? Who is responsible for it? What are the standards and the limits? I'm just sharing some questions in my head, and this channel is the best for learning about Dutch bicycle infrastructure and traffic in the Netherlands.

    Sorry for the long message. 🙂

  33. Awesome! Hopefully, the excellent cycling infrastructure will be initiated my city.

  34. Very interesting video. I never knew our cycle paths were such a recent thing. Interesting to see also the old images of Amsterdam and I believe Utrecht

  35. I was born and raised in Tilburg and still live here. I don't own a car and cycle everywhere I go. After living abroad for a few years I really came to appreciate our cycling culture and the freedom that comes with it. I would say that the biggest annoyance these days is the large amount of polluting scooters on our cycleways. They should have an electric only policy. At least in the cities.

  36. Every Dutchy, even car owners, ride a bike for "short" distances. The average person owns 1.5 bikes. We start participating in traffic by bike at the age of 4 or 5, though supervised by parents the first years.

  37. Research shows that even in the US, you are MUCH more likely to get a head injury while driving a car (98% of head injuries), than you are while cycling (2%). Hence no bike helmets in Holland. Ironically, it would make a huge difference if the whole world made helmets mandatory for DRIVERS (of cars).

  38. Parking your bike is usually free. Parking cars in Dutch cities is inaffordable, even in front of your own home, which requires a special permit, which limits households to one car. Want your bike culture to boom? Start by insanely taxing parking.

  39. 3:40 Wow. I've been at such a demo. But there aren't sony many cyclists. I wish such great cycle paths as in Netherlands.

  40. What a beautiful thing! I visited Copenhagen last year and was amazed by all the cyclists, this lead me to buying a bicycle when I returned to the US. I hadn’t ridden a bicycle since I was a kid and now I commute regularly and for recreation. I really hope biking continues to be a trend in major cities around the world

  41. The state does not want cars, despite their "war on cars" they have not been successful. The dream of all Dutchman is TO OWN A CAR!!!!

  42. how many gov't officials use these cycling paths though? does the Dutch gov't want the people to use cycling path while they use the roads with their cars?

  43. I hope in the near future, a comprehensive video like this one will be made but with the title.. "How the Americans got their cycle paths"..
    Thanks for sharing

  44. Hoping bike/ped/wheelchair/micromobility advocates everywhere will pitch Vision Zero – zero deaths or serious accidents – in their communities. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vision_Zero

  45. In the U.S. the automobile industry and oil & gas would lobby to prevent the government to invest in cycling infrastructure.

    Great for the Dutch people! Love the infrastructure. I hope to visit one day!

  46. For sure, these protesters were often being called 'too radical' back then. Protest and civil disobedience is now more necessary than ever. Thanks for this video!!

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