Holland is world's cycling leader
The Netherlands is the world's number one cycling country. Cycling is a major means of transportation there, serving as a sustainable, healthy and economical mobility solution. The Netherlands has vast bike-friendly infrastructure that makes cycling a practical and safe way to get around. It also has some of the most innovative bicycle technology and bike manufacturers. It's no wonder that countries around the world are calling on the Netherlands for cycling expertise and technology.
A way of life
Cycling is a way of life in Holland. In fact, there are more bikes than people. The 17 million Dutch inhabitants own 22.8 million bicycles, most of which are made in Holland. Cycling is big business in Holland; more than 1 billion euros was spent on bicycles and cycling infrastructure in 2010.
Small environmental footprint
Although cycling has been a common mode of transportation for decades in countries such as the Netherlands, Denmark and China, it is gaining in popularity elsewhere due to the growing concern about the environment and healthy living. Cycling has a small environmental footprint and big health advantages. However, in order to get more people biking, there needs to be good bike-friendly infrastructure.
'Bikeability' is something the Netherlands excels in. Urban planning incorporates cycling paths in the transportation network. There are separate traffic lights for cyclists and special signs to regulate cycling traffic. Children learn the traffic rules for cycling in special training courses in grade school. All Dutch children around the age of 10 are required to take a theory test for cycling as well as a practical examination which is overseen by the police. Their bikes are checked and certified.
Image: Photo: NBTC
Safety comes first for Dutch cyclists. There are special traffic laws for cycling and these are seriously enforced. Bicycles have a special status in traffic. For example, under Dutch traffic law, if there is a collision between a car and a cyclist, the car driver's insurance is deemed responsible. Contrary to many other countries, cyclists of any age are not required by law to wear helmets. This is no doubt due to the fact that there are many other measures taken to ensure the safety of cyclists.
For many countries, the Netherlands is a prime example of how cycling can be incorporated into everyday life. Several Dutch organisations are actively promoting Holland's expertise and technology abroad. For example, the Dutch Cycling Embassy is an advocacy group with representatives from non-profit organisations, private companies, bike manufacturers and local and national governments in the Netherlands. The embassy's goal is to help organisations and governments abroad to find partners for developing cycling infrastructure, policies and products.
Dutch Cycling Embassy
The Dutch Cycling Embassy organises promotional events and workshops and has an information desk and website to share Dutch cycling knowledge. In September 2011 a team of Dutch experts led a series of 'Think Bike' workshops in four US cities, including San Francisco, to help advocates and planners design the bike infrastructure of the future. San Francisco policy-makers are committed to increasing bicycle use and are garnering Dutch expertise for their projects. The Embassy, which recently joined Twitter, points out: "You travel 10 percent faster in cities by bike than by car. The quality of life in cities improves. Traffic congestion reduces. Local, city economies improve."
Orange Bike Days
Another initiative is the Orange Bike Days in Belgium and Luxemburg. These were a series of seminars held by the Dutch embassies in Brussels and Luxemburg and the consulate in Antwerp in September 2011 to promote cycling. The seminars give Dutch bike-makers and The events tie into the 'Smart Mobility' campaign being held by those embassies throughout 2011. The campaign promotes environmentally-friendly mobility solutions.
Exports on a roll
Know-how is one thing, technology is another. The Netherlands leads the world in innovation related to bicycle design and materials. You might say the Netherlands has turned bicycle-making into a fine art. The country counts many designers and manufacturers of a wide range of bikes, not only for domestic use but also for export. In fact, the Netherlands makes more than 30 percent of all the bikes in Europe, making it Europe's largest bike producer. In 2010, the Netherlands exported more than 1 million bicycles worldwide and exports have been steadily increasing in the past ten years.
As cycling continues to catch on as a modern mobility mode in countries worldwide, the call for Dutch expertise and technology will surely intensify.