Top photo: 'In the snow'. Courtesy (cc) of Saskya
Amsterdam has about 750.000 inhabitants, roughly 1.5 million in the city proper an urban population of 1,364,422 and a metropolitan population of 2,158,372. The cycling rate downtown is 55% (more bike than car trips since 2007, if you don't count pre-war & shortly post-war rates), the rate for the greater city hovers around 40%.
Photo 'llibreria - bookstore - Amsterdam - HDR'. Courtesy (cc) of MorBCN.
The national modal share for bicycles for all trips is 27%. When I mention 'cycling rate' or 'modal share', we're talking about cycling by all people of all ages, both sexes (women a few % more than men), not the popular category 'bicycle commuters' mostly known elsewhere.
Let me restate that Amsterdam is NOT exemplary for the Netherlands & for what can be done. Yes, it's quite good, you won't hear me really complain (give or take a few issues that will be covered soon). Yes, it is still the #1 yard stick for many capitals/major cities around the world which look for guidance & inspiration and it will probably fulfill that role for years to come.
Photo 'Frosty Amsterdam'. Courtesy (cc) of Ben.
Just for my favorite wonks (yes, you, you know who you are), I'll continue, using the Fietsersbond's (Cyclists Union) latest data wrap up 'Cycling in Figures':
There is a lot of cycling going on in the Netherlands. In no other country in the world with similar levels of prosperity do people cycle this much. The Dutch cycle mainly because they find it a comfortable and reliable means of transportation: 84% of Dutch people have a positive opinion about the bike. Of the regular cyclists 95% considers it positive and even more than half of non-cyclists have a favorable opinion. Dutch give the bike the following qualities: quiet, no aggravation, be by yourself, no delays, always on time and it's cheap. Independence and flexibility are highly valued, only slightly less than the car (Source: Min. I & M KIM)
A quarter of all our movements and a third of all trips up to 7.5 km are by bike. That's more than 4.5 billion annual bike rides. In doing so, we cover 15 billion km. On average, a Dutchman rides 300 journeys every year, well over 900 km. In total, the Dutch cycle nearly 200 billion kilometers every year. 75% of all journeys are by car, 9% by train, 8% by bike, 3% by bus, tram and subway, 2% on foot and 3% by other means (moped, motorcycle, etc.)
In the Netherlands almost everyone cycles: young and old, men and women, rich and poor, car owners and those without. 13.5 million Dutch people (84%) have one bike, or more (est. total of 18 million bikes). Women cycle slightly more often than men, natives far more than immigrants.
Photo 'School Bus The Dutch Way'. Courtesy (cc) of Akbar Simonse.
When do Dutch people cycle?
Dutch people cycle a lot. Of course there is more cycling in the summer than in the autumn and winter. But cycling rates also vary between days of the week. On an average working day, 5 million people make an average of 14 million cycle journeys. Monday and Thursday are the top days with a million more journeys than on the other days of the week. On Saturday, 11.5 million cycle journeys are made, and on Sunday 6.5 million.
Through the week, between 8 in the morning and 6 in the evening, more than a million cycle journeys are made each hour. The high point is between 8 and 9 in the morning with 1.75 million cycle journeys during the hour. In that hour, many journeys to work and school are made, and more bicycles are in use than cars. Cycling on a typical week-day:
"The scale of cycling in the Netherlands is quite phenomenal. If you go out, at any time of the day or night, you're not unusual, but are joining with a mass of other cyclists making their journeys. It's impossible to travel far on a bike without seeing other cyclists. I don't think I've ever made it further than 200 metres from my home (in a 100 m long cul-de-sac) before seeing at least one bike. Riding a bike is not in any way a political statement. It's just normal.
Photos '(T)Rusty Companion' & 'A Bike's A Bike' by Amsterdamize.
The figures above are national figures, applying to the whole country. The Netherlands has a population of 16.7 million people. That's just twice the population of London or New York. However, the cycling rate of the country as a whole is far higher than that of cities in other countries. By comparison, treating the country as a "city", the people here are spread out at a remarkably low density of just 400 per square kilometre, vs. 4800 per square kilometre in London or 10000 people per square kilometre in New York.
However, despite having the advantage of high density and the resulting short journey lengths, neither of these cities manage more than a small fraction of the cycle usage of this whole country. London has only around 2% of journeys by bike, and New York even less at only around 0.6% of commutes. In neither of those cities would you find masses of school children riding at any time. (more about population density and cycling)
How far do we cycle?
An average bike ride is a little over 3 km and takes a little less than 15 minutes. 75% of all bike rides is less than 3.7 km. Between 1 and 4 km, the bicycle is the most important means of transportation. Up to 1 kilometer walking is the primal mode, and when traveling over 4 km the car is dominant. For distances up to 20 km people cycle more than they take the train or bus.
Are you faster by bike in the city?
In the city, people on bikes arrive at their destination on average 5% faster than car drivers. In larger cities (more than 100,000 inhabitants) they are 10% faster. For trips with distances up to 3 km the bicycle almost always wins, usually not up from 4 km. That's including parking and walking to the entrance of your destination (Source: Fietsbalans-2).
How important is the bike for our travel needs?
For most purposes the bicycle is an important means of transportation. For example, the bicycles accounts for half of the trips to school and university, one quarter of trips to work and over one quarter of the trips to the store.
Reasons for using a bicycle for transportation:
Going to work: 25%
Business appointment: 11%
Services/personal care: 18%
Social, recreational, other: 31%
Can cycling grow further?
The bicycle competes very well with other modes for short distances. 70% of all trips are shorter than 7.5 km. Of all car trips, more than 50% are shorter than 7.5 km. For most people that's less than an half hour of cycling. A big portion of that can easily be replaced by bike trips. The major differences in bicycle use between municipalities show that there are big gains to be made.
Photo 'Marching Band, Dutch-Style'. Courtesy (cc) of happyrach8.
How healthy and safe is cycling?
Several studies show that sufficient exercise reduces the risk of health problems. In the long run exercise reduces risk of mortality by 20-30%, Â± 40% risk reduction in coronary heart disease, 20-25% risk reduction in heart strokes, Â± 40% risk reduction in diabetes mellitus type 2 and 20-40% risk reduction in breast cancer. The short term effects include lower risk of depression, increased quality of life, improved fitness and decrease in (severe) obesity. (Source: VU) Cycling is a great way of moving. And although in the cities a cyclist is exposed to dirty air and runs the risk of an accident, the positive effects of cycling outweigh these by far.
Photo 'Lovers on a bike'. Courtesy (cc) of Iam sterdam.
The bicycle is a safe means of transport in the Netherlands. The risk of a person on a bicycle becoming victim of a serious traffic incident in the Netherlands is the lowest in the world. There are two major reasons: the creation of separate infrastructure for cycling and the large number of people on bicycles.
What are the costs for bicycle infrastructure in the Netherlands?
Every year, the Dutch government (national, regional & local) spends over 400 million euros on cycling infrastructure. Per kilometer traveled by bicycle that is as much as Flanders (Belgium) and Denmark combined. 400 million includes operating bicycle parking facilities, but excludes the establishment of infrastructure in new residential areas and major maintenance and renovation of old areas. (Sources: Fietsberaad, MON)
How many paths are there in the Netherlands?
According to the latest census of the Central Bureau of Statistics from 1996 the Netherlands had 17,075 km of separated bicycle paths and 1909 km of on road bicycle lanes. An analysis of the digital maps of the Cycling and Bicycles Routes in the Netherlands shows that there are currently actually over 29,000 km of separated bicycle paths and 4700 km of on road bicycle lanes. (Source: Fietsbalans 2).
How many bicycles are there in the Netherlands?
There are an estimated 18 million bicycles in the Netherlands. 13.5 Million people of 4 years and older (84%) own on average 1.3 bicycles. Every year, about 1.3 million new bikes are sold with a total value of nearly 1 billion euros. Half of all sold bikes are regular touring or city bicycles. In recent years, the sales of electric bikes spectacularly. The average price spent on a new bicycles in retail stores (including supermarkets) in the Netherlands is 750 euros. In specialty bike shops people spend on average over 900 euros on a new bicycle.
Photo 'Amsterdam - Girls going to college'. Courtesy (cc) of Stephane Pironon.'Two Tongues Do Not Make A Right' & '1+1 Own The Lane. By Amsterdamize.
How many bikes are stolen annually in the Netherlands?
Fear of theft is an oft-cited reason for motorists to take the car on short distances. (Source: CCV)
The actual number of bicycle thefts per year is not clear, since not all bicycle thefts are declared with the police. In two different studies the CBS made an estimate of the real extent of theft. Under the old method theft fell from 909,000 in 2005 to 541,000 in 2009. The new and reliable method revealed a much higher theft rate: in 2008 858.000, in 2009 a 4.5% increase to 897,000.
How fast do people cycle?
Most people cycle at a fairly steady pace: between 15 and 18 km per hour. Obviously this can be done faster. The absolute world speed cycling record(behind a car as pacemakers) was clocked at 269 km/h in 1995, achieved by Dutchman Fred Rompelberg. On a recumbent bicycle, the Canadian Sam Whittingham reached a speed of 133 km/h in 2009.
Doesn't it rain too often to cycle?
According to statistics of the KNMI it only rains 6.5% of the time. The longer you're outside of course the more likely you'll get wet from the rain. Being outside for about one hour, getting wet has a probability ranging from 0.09 in May to 0.16 in December.
Photo 'Giro d'Amsterdam on a Friday afternoon'. Courtesy (cc) of hoofdweg.Photo 'P5197478-Edit'. Courtesy of El-lvis.Update: Inspired by these figures, Mark Wagenbuur sat down at his editing suite and created this must-see video. I reckon this is a powerful tool and inspiration for any advocate or supporter of cycling in general to get the message across of what's possible:
Bicycles came, saw, conquered, got beleaguered (1950-1970), needed 'a little' help & overcame (1975-present day). Elsewhere, it's happening now. Some places experience revolutionary changes, others more evolutionary ones.
Growing pains are a small price to pay for all these big gains. N'est pas?
Photo 'Framed | 'Adjust'' by Amsterdamize.
For closure, here are two of my own videos I made a few years back, timeless enough to keep spreading, imho.
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