May 14, 2018· 3 Comments
Guest post by William Manners
Visiting Amsterdam for the first time was an eye-opening experience. Staying in a district a bit outside the city centre, it was difficult not to wander around without constantly being struck by a sense that I had stumbled across some kind of Utopian model of the future.
A lot of this awe and wonder came, unsurprisingly, from the continual sight of cyclists. At times it felt as though you had been placed in a game of ‘Crossy Road’, with a continual stream of hazards flying at you from either side. For the most part, the sheer number of cyclists was a cause for delight. After spending a good amount of time writing about how wonderful the bicycle is, going to a place which has done so much to cater and support cyclists did feel a bit like arriving at a holy site after a long pilgrimage.
As much as it may feel this way, Amsterdam’s extensive cycling network did not appear by some miracle. A brief bit of research reveals that it was the result of committed activism combined with general popular support of cycling and politicians who recognised the potential of the bicycle to solve a range of different issues. The result of all this is a city where 35% of journeys are completed by bicycle. The effects? People who enjoy their morning commute to work, roads which are eerily quiet and a general sense of the wonderfulness of it all.
As with most people who cycle, leaving Amsterdam was accompanied by a feeling of ‘why can’t we have something like this where I live?’ Of course, the location and geographical features of Amsterdam make it much more naturally cycle-friendly than where I live in Leeds. However, lots more could certainly be done to implement Amsterdam’s system of cycling infrastructure in towns and cities around the UK. The question is: how can we make this happen?