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.
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