Encouraging cycling

This is an inspiring video about a Groningen in the Netherlands, where 50% of trips (60% in the inner city) are done by bicycle, and the average person makes 10 bike trips a week.

While there are features of Groningen which make it attractive for cycling (e.g. it is a fairly compact town of 190,000, of whom 50,000 are students, and it looks pretty flat) there have also been conscious decisions which have built on these attributes.

According to the video, it was a small group of young activists who really started the bicycle revolution in the mid 70s. They started the process and brought in changes to start encouraging bikes. Now there are a range of measures that make cycling more attractive than driving (e.g., more direct routes for bikes than cars) and there is heaps of infrastructure supporting cyclists. The main train station has 10,000 bicycle parking spots, and on the weekends most of these are used! The local cinema has 100s of bicycle parking spots. There is a bicycle share system that is widely available.

It seems to be pretty popular and has made a huge difference to transport in the town. I would love to know more about the opposition they faced and how they overcame this. How did they address the concerns of the shops who were afraid that they were going to lose all their business? Did they get them on board, or did they just do it anyway?

I would also like to know what happens in bad weather (rain, heat and wind), and how they would cope with a more hilly terrain. I also noted that helmets were worn rarely (if at all).

This type of change is not easy and requires visionary leadership. We desperately need leaders who will make big changes that will contribute to a more environmentally sustainable world. At times we will need to make decisions that won’t be popular, but need to be made for the sake of future generations. I hope some of our leaders get inspired by Groningen.

If you liked this post, you might also like:

  1. How we can eat our landscapes
  2. An urban farm in people’s backyards
  3. Richard Denniss and the Curse of Affluenza
  4. Wicked problems and community engagement
  5. Transition Streets Challenge powerpoint

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
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4 Responses to Encouraging cycling

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello, I live in the near of Groningen. The town has not 90.000 inhabitants but 190.000 and 50.000 of them are students.

    Like

  2. Virginia Hanlon says:

    I lived in Holland for 17 years and rarely used the car!
    Dutch people go everywhere by bike it is a normal mode of transport and yes helmets are not required
    When I did drive the car I was so aware of bikes everywhere -you never crossed a street without watching out for them.I still do it here in Australia automatically. That has to become part of our road psyche too
    Parking your car is a nightmare in the villages as there is the same population as Australia in a country 200 times smaller!
    A bike is easy.They are heaps of areas available to leave your bike
    I rode in all kinds of weather just like the Dutch. If you waited till the weather was good you would never have left the house!
    Plus there are no hills that’s why it’s called The Netherlands – the lowlands!
    You live indoors a lot of the time in Holland because of the cold but that didnt stop me biking.
    It was invigorating to say the least!
    I now live in Newcastle at the top of a big hill and after 5 years of struggling up that hill I put an electric motor on it. I now do my shopping like I did back in Holland by bike!

    Liked by 1 person

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