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Hugh Salt: The British cyclist in Holland

The Independent: Hugh Salt: The British cyclist in Holland

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The real difference between the two nations is that cycling in Holland is treated as an integral part of the transport network.

The Dutch have excellent cycling policy, which covers the whole country. You get the same facilities in the middle of nowhere as you do in stations in big cities.

The facilities are very good too – every station on the Amsterdam to Amstelveen tramline, for instance, has a secure cycle park, a repair shop and good quality rental bikes. When you buy a ticket, you can buy it with bike rental built in, so you can choose how much of a distance you want to ride to work.

Cyclists often have their own lanes and their own traffic lights, and the law is stacked in their favour. A motorist who hits a cyclist in the Netherlands has to prove he was doing all he could to avoid contact, whereas it is the other way round in the UK.

In Britain, however, cycling is very fragmented. Awareness is growing, and some councils are beginning to recognise the benefits, but many others still don’t have a clue. What we need is a national cycling directive which has been designed as part of our overall transport policy.

The financial impetus for this already exists, what with the high price of petrol, and all the congestion on our roads. If you hit drivers in the wallet, more and more will see that the bicycle is still the most efficient means of transport.

Hugh Salt, 57, runs dutchbike.co.uk and lives in Amsterdam and Cambridge