If you raise the topic of wanting your city to have more climate-friendly active transportation amenities - like protected bike lanes and other changes that make biking easier and safer - you’ll probably hear countless people say “But (insert your city name here) isn’t Amsterdam!”
But did you know that Amsterdam, commonly thought of as one of the world’s great cycling cities, was once traffic choked and unsafe for those traveling around the city by bike or on foot?
As Sharee Hochman writes, after the second world war as the Dutch economy recovered and began to thrive, cycling rates began to fall as whole neighborhoods were eliminated to make room for all the space that cars need - for traveling as well as parking.
This remaking of city streets into places almost exclusively for automobiles turned out to be very dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians. In 1971, 3,000 people were killed and 450 of those were children. A movement formed, Stop de Kindermoord or “stop children’s murders”.
In response to this movement the city reversed course, and over the following decades cycling infrastructure was brought back and later expanded. Today 58% of those aged over 12 that live in Amsterdam cycle every day. There are 881,000 bikes in the city and 767 km (~475 miles) of cycle paths and lanes. (Source)
Looking for ideas on how to help your city get started on a similar journey? Check out the Copenhagenize Index that every year collects and analyzes data on cities around the world to find the top 20 most bike friendly places. The website will give you a quick idea of what makes a city better for bikes and there are lots of resources on the site to help you learn more.
One of the great things about cycling in places that ‘get it’ is that people frequently ride two abreast chatting while they travel. Who can you talk to, whether stationary or on a bike, to get progress going where you live? Happy chatting and cycling!