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London cycling and the “by chance” success of Amsterdam

Dec 2nd, 2016 by

A new book about the cycling cultures of Dutch and other European cities offers some valuable guidance for London

For many London cycling activists and politicians with transport responsibilities the Netherlands is the touchstone nation for urban cycling policy, as demonstrated by the London Cycling Campaign’s ongoing “Go Dutch” theme and Boris Johnson’s borough-centred “mini-Holland” schemes. It is easy to see why. In 2014, cyclists accounted for a commanding 32% of modal share across the Dutch capital Amsterdam, higher than any other category and rising. Only walking rivals it as a way to get around. How did Amsterdam come to be such a beacon as a cycling city and what can London learn from it?

Professor Ruth Oldenziel of Eindhoven University – a Dutch person and a cyclist, just so you know – is co-editor of a new book called Cycling Cities: The European Experience. In it, she and a colleague characterise Amsterdam as the “world bicycle capital, by chance”. Last week, presenting the book’s findings at a London Travelwatch event, she summarised the city’s cycling pre-eminence as resulting from “a kind of coincidence”.

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