Friday, December 31, 2010

Cycling to Sustainability in Amsterdam

By Ralph Buehler, 
Assistant Professor,Virginia Tech and John Pucher, Professor, Rutgers University

 Via Sustainable Communities, issue 21, fall/winter 2010

Introduction: The many dimensions of cycling’s sustainability 

There are many good reasons to encourage more cycling. It causes virtually no noise or air pollution and consumes far less non-renewable resources than any motorized transport mode. The only energy cycling requires is provided directly by the traveler, and the very use of that energy offers valuable cardiovascular exercise. Cycling requires only a small fraction of the space needed for the use and parking of cars. Moreover, cycling is economical, costing far less than both the private car and public transport, both in direct user costs and public infrastructure costs. Because it is affordable by virtually everyone, cycling is among the most equitable of all transport modes. In short, it is hard to beat cycling when it comes to environmental, social and economic sustainability.
This article examines how Amsterdam has consistently improved cycling conditions over many decades and succeeded at raising even further the share of trips by bike. As a result, it has become one of Europe’s most sustainable cities, offering convenient, safe, and socially acceptable alternatives to car dependence.
Unlike cities in North America, all segments of society cycle in the Netherlands: women as much as men, all age groups, and all income groups. The universality of cycling in the Netherlands highlights the extraordinary degree of social sustainability that bicycling makes possible.
Amsterdam: Cycling Capital of Europe 

Bikes have shaped the image of Amsterdam to such an extent that, for many people throughout the world, Amsterdam is almost synonymous with cycling. In 2008, cycling accounted for 38% of all vehicle trips—a bike mode share unheard of in other European cities of comparable size (City of Amsterdam, 2009). With a population of 743,000, Amsterdam is the largest city in the Netherlands. The greater Amsterdam region has 1.5 million inhabitants and is situated at the northern end of the Randstad, the Netherlands’ largest urrban agglomeration.
Amsterdam’s city administration estimates that there were 600,000 bikes in Amsterdam in 2006, about 0.75 bikes per inhabitant (City of Amsterdam, 2007). Amsterdam’s topography and spatial development patterns are ideal for cycling. The city is mostly flat and densely built-up. Mixed use neighborhoods keep trip distances relatively short. Furthermore, many small bike bridges and bike short cuts make it easy to navigate the city center by bike. By comparison, car use is difficult in the central city. There are few car parking spaces, and many cul-de-sacs and one way streets hinder car travel.

Cycling in Amsterdam, image by Stephen Trainor
Bicycling in Amsterdam, image by poul.iversen

more posts about bicycle planning in Europe:

Sustainable Transport Ideas: Cycling in Amsterdam

500 Kilometers of Bicycle Routes in Cicycling Capital of Germany

Complete Streets Lessons from Copenhagen

Bike Parking: a Key Part of the Bicycle Planning Amenities

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This was such a nice place. Amsterdam is one of my place would love to visit and I am very glad that I came across here in your post. Thank you.