Go Dutch, learn the lesson


Why the contribution is important

Its important to realise that we have to start at the begining. How many times have you heard the expression "strong foundations", yet we still focus on grand infrastructure projects without first having addressed the basic requirement to make cycling and active travel, normal, safe, well connected, well maintained, well signposted and attractive for families. 

Look at our nice big shiny new path and bridge, weve even placed some lovely big rocks and planted a few trees, what a great photo op!! Is this really the way forward, I know it isnt, history shows us this. The Dutch experience is there, lets learn from it.

So this is why we need to start with primary school children and their families, in the communities where they live. There will be those that change to active travel when trunk paths are built, but there will not be the huge change that we need, if we are to become a net zero country in the near future. Cycling is still seen as a bit weird. If the majority of children cycle to school, then that oddball who cycles factor is nothing but a memory. We dont need to change childrens behavoiur, we just need to train them, encourage them and support them. Thats what the Dutch did.

The Dutch children of the 60's, are now the grandparents of today. They cycle to go shopping. They dont wear lycra, ride road bikes, wear helmets and Hiviz, they dont need to, its far more relaxed and normal than that, its not a road war, unlike here in Scotlands cities and towns. They dont have half the public health problems our society has. Thier children and grand children cycle everywhere, even the royal family cycles. The schools have rates of over 90% of children cycling to school. Its normal, thats what they do. It started with the children, stop the child murders wasnt just a saying, it was a starting point, a focus. Its also important to rmember, that when the Netherlands started building their path networks, many adults didnt engage with them at first, behaviour change is difficult for people, especially the older you get. The change was driven by youth engagement, using the infrstructure, making it normal. The more they cycled, the more people cycled, a critical mass. 

What will happen if we continue the way we are. Sustrans, in partnership with local and national goevrnemnet will continue to spend huge amounts of money on commutor links. Which are nice, but its spending money that can be used to get significantly more bang for buck. Bottoms on saddles, cycling becoming normal and aspirational for all. It wont generate modal change. We wont become a cycling nation, or not for many more years, when it will be too late. How many millions have been spent on behaviour change projects in the recent past? Far too many to be honest, and for very little change.Im very lucky in that I am employed to deliver cycle training, I'm part funded by this money, but I find it hugely frustrating that we dont seem to be learning and adapting the approach we need to drive the change we need to see.

We must also remember, its not our planet, its our childrens and grandchildrens, and we have to build back better for them, to give them the best chance we can. Lets start with them, and stop focussing on ourselves for once.

by PhilJones on October 22, 2020 at 11:43AM

Current Rating

Average rating: 4.5
Based on: 14 votes


  • Posted by greenstreak October 22, 2020 at 17:47

    In any case, thanks to Covid, people are needing to commute less.
  • Posted by annec October 22, 2020 at 22:51

    Yes more use of bikes would be so fantastic but unfortunately we will need drastic societal changes if are children are to have any future at all.
  • Posted by davidso October 24, 2020 at 09:43

    Going Dutch is also an expression of support for a combination of traffic calming and Home Zones where some roads have a second entrance blocked by planters - meaning everyone can get to their home but not everyone can rat-run through a residential area.
  • Posted by rs October 26, 2020 at 07:58

    The Netherlands are an excellent example of a healthy and engaged population. We need to study how they have promoted cycling and copy their ideas.
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