It's healthy. It's fun. It's often an easier way to get around a city. So why, asks The Guardian's Wayne Visser, aren't more of us on bikes?
So why, in an age desperate for more sustainable transport solutions, has the Netherlands succeeded so spectacularly where others have tried and failed? There seem to be a few obvious reasons. First, the country is relatively flat. Second, it is fairly small, so vehicle space is at a premium. Third, the government has invested heavily in supporting infrastructure including bike lanes and storage facilities. And fourth, cycling is complemented by a well-developed public transport system of trains, buses and trams.
There is also the very important issue of safety – both perceived and actual. The accident statistics show that the Netherlands is the safest place in the world to cycle. There is obviously a safety in numbers effect, and good infrastructure design is vital. But there are also legal sanctions. For example, there is an interesting law in the Netherlands, which makes car drivers financially responsible in the event of a crash with bikers. Of course, there is a cultural effect as well. Since everyone cycles regularly, there is a prevailing empathy and safety awareness on the roads.
It also doesn't help that politicians regularly strip funding for bike lanes from the transportation bill. Thankfully, some cities, like Seattle and New York, among others, are forward-thinking enough to encourage more biking as an alternative to cars.