True safety lies with design

I enjoyed the photos in this post of cyclists in the Netherlands. Note the absence of helmets, lights, and hi-viz clothing. They’re just normal people cycling in normal clothes to get to work, school, and shops. This is how cycling should be.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

I shared some pictures the other day, in an attempt to convey a fairly simple message – that the safety record of the Netherlands for cycling is almost entirely attributable to the physical environment people cycle in, and that it isn’t down to exemplary behaviour (either of people cycling, or of people driving), or down to clothing, or safety equipment, or special lighting, or any other kind of gimmick.

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 18.22.01Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 18.24.13

Admittedly it isn’t particularly obvious from the photographs, but these pictures were taken at two large, busy junctions in Utrecht – the first is at the Westplein, a major junction just to the west of the train station, the second is the junction of Vleutensweg and Thomas a Kempisweg. The people in the pictures are able to negotiate these junctions in total safety, despite doing what they are doing, and wearing what they are wearing, and riding battered bikes, because they are completely…

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10 responses to “True safety lies with design”

  1. This is really interesting and got me me thinking. What I remember of the Netherlands is how flat it is, which predisposes to cycling. Where you have a lot of cyclists, you are then going to have dedicated cycling lanes, which will decrease accidents.
    Maybe the problem in other countries is that there are fewer cyclists, so generally, cities do not bother with cycle lanes?
    Here in SA I must say a lot of cyclists are arrogant and dangerous. It doesn’t help if it is their right of way, if the motorist simply has not seen them!
    Though I do have a friend who cycles everywhere and is very proficient and safety conscious.

    • It wasn’t always this way in the Netherlands. In the 1970s, after a spate of cycle deaths, people took to the streets to protest to make the streets safer for cyclists. “Stop the slaughter” they said.

      There’s a short clip about this here:

      The cycle lanes need to come first because the majority of people, especially women, will not cycle when they have to share the roads with cars. They perceive it to be unsafe. The only way to get lots of cyclists like they have in places like the Netherlands and Denmark, is to build the infrastructure first.

      • Ah, you have a point there. My daughter in UK would cycle in Notts, using cycle lanes, but still had to negotiate heavy traffic en route where the cycle lane disappeared.
        I think we could all benefit from more exercise, and this would be one way 🙂

  2. Well you know you’re preaching (not that you’re preachy, Rachel!) to the converted with me but I’ll still insist wearing helmets and having lights makes sense. I’ve been nearly taken out by too many pedestrians not to, let alone the bloody cars!

    • I’m very pleased to hear I’m not being preachy. It seems we all want cycling infrastructure. Why aren’t we building it? Am I just being impatient?

      • Not at all. Politics is the reason. We are car addicts. Most voters drive and the political will isn’t there. There are enough high profile accidents on Parliament’s doorstep. Mostly deaths largely young women and still nothing. It is a disgrace.

    • I use that map quite a lot, thanks, Graham. Although it isn’t accurate for Aberdeen. There are a few more green paths than the map suggests. I wonder who updates it?

  3. I am waiting for the prefect conditions to start cycling, like the ones I see in those photos. Hopefully it doesn’t mean I will have to wait forever!

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