On Wednesday evening (June 6), just before I headed for Zagreb to speak at the Pedalafest conference, I launched the new Amsterdamize website (more on which later this week). Having returned, I received this message via the new contact form, from Jane Black in Glasgow, Scotland:
(Photo by Paula of pinkbow.net)
I would like to congratulate you on your work into promoting the wonderful Dutch cycling culture to other nations and I have been inspired both by the work on your website and on your twitter posts. I am a 25 year old female from Glasgow, Scotland, and I am very keen on promoting the benefits of cycling to our nation. In my own experience, Glasgow is not very enjoyable city to cycle in which saddens me as I would love to feel safe on my bike and use it as my main mode of transport. The city itself has so much potential but the local council do not prioritise cycling or seem to realise the economic, health and environmental benefits it brings to a city.
Almost all of my journeys end up with me on the pavement, squeezing past pedestrians and feeling very unwelcome both on the pavement and on the road. And this is the view of somebody who would dearly love to cycle, just imagine how non-cyclists feel. We need change and we need knowledge and experience to implement the se changes. I'm in the process of altering my scientific career and working towards a careers in health promotion and practice and to get the nation cycling in a safe, welcoming and enjoyable environment should be the countries number one priority, in my own personal view.
At present I am working in a hospital in the field of Microbiology. The hospital environment has given me first hand experience of specimen analysis from patients being treated with illnesses resulting from poor lifestyles, with particular reference to type II diabetes and other cardiovascular illnesses. I was extremely surprised and shocked by the number of patients receiving limb amputations as a result of an illness that could have been completely avoided if lifestyles were improved. This is when I realised that our councils and governments should really be implementing ways for people to get up and get moving.
To go back to the original cycling idea, if we had a safe, well designed cycling infrastructure, people would be more inclined to use it and I am sure that over time, with the increase in activity that lifestyle-related conditions would decrease. However, with the current road systems, cycling is by no means appealing to the general population as many will understandably feel threatened when competing for space alongside motorised vehicles. I feel that there should be a greater awareness on active travel and that local authorities should be creating road networks that allow pedestrians and cyclists to feel less vulnerable and more willing to swap the car for a bike.
To an extent I envy the Netherlands with such an inviting bicycle culture; like the Netherlands, people of all ages and levels of fitness should have a right cycle to work, to school and cycle as a form of leisure without being harrassed by the motorised vehicle. With cycling there are the obvious cardiovascular benefits, improved social wellbeing and over time, less pollution in the already over-polluted cities which will ultimately have a positive impact on population health. Furthermore, implementing a quality cycling infrastructure will last far longer than the pot-holed roads which so regularly require attendance from overuse.
Cycling brings so many benefits and can improve quality of life is so many ways. We live in a country with so many opportunities to get out and enjoy the fresh air that I personally cannot understand why our nation lags behind so many of our European counterparts who have successfully endorsed the bicycle culture.
I hope that with my letter I have given you a little insight into the difficulties our country (and the UK) faces when trying to promote cycling. It is so sad that we cannot have the freedom to simply get on a bike and cycle. That I cannot take young children to nursery or school on their bike. And that when I choose to cycle it can sometimes be a life or death risk. But I am deeply committed to changing that and I hope that maybe one day we can learn from your city and have cycling culture to be proud of.
I thank you kindly for taking the time to read my letter. I am currently learning Dutch and apologize that this letter is not in Dutch, it may have turned out illegible!
Kind regards, Jane Black
Thank you, Jane, Amsterdamize will try and support this mission anyway it can. Here's to new beginnings.