experts_2532963bI am interested in expanding the content of your post, by adding to your literature on the sustainability of cycling as an alternative mode of transport, looking at the Netherlands and the city of Amsterdam and how it has developed to be known as a ‘cycling city’.

It is interesting that Newman and Kenworthy define the unsustainability of current urban transport patterns as “automobile dependence”. (1991 as cited by Bertolini and le Clerq, 2002, pg. 575). This therefore explains why, as Kay states, that predominantly in the US, but also in other Western countries transportation systems are still tailored to the needs of the car (1998 as cited by Peltzer, 2010). Puhler and Buhler also argue this point, that cycling in most of the industrialised world is viewed as more of a recreational activity but not for everyday travelling (2008).

However, this is not true for all countries for example in the Netherlands “the bicycle is an integrated part of the transportation system” (Peltzer, 2010, pg. 2,).  Additionally, Peltzer argues that “the bicycle- like the car in the US- is part of the Dutch ‘national habitus” (Bordieu, 1977 as cited by Peltzer, 2010, pg. 2).

Amsterdam is widely known for its cycling activity; however this was not always the case. After the Second World War the city undertook a similar car-focused development approach as other Western countries (Peltzer, 2010). However this changed in the mid 1960’s and 1970’s where a social movement called the Provos advocated for a very different, more sustainable city (Peltzer, 2010, pg. 3).

This led to the Dutch expanding their network of cycling paths and infrastructure by more than double in the late 1970’s-mid 1990’s (Pucher and Dijkstra, 2003). There were also other changes that were made to the transport infrastructure, such as “considerable alterations to the streets themselves, such as road narrowing, raised intersections and crosswalks, traffic circles, extra curves and zigzag routes, speed humps and artificial dead-ends created by mid-block street closures”  (Puhler and Buhler, 2008 pg.514).

These measures appear to be based on a principle that provides an environment that supports multiple forms of transport mobility to increase the accessibility of sustainable transport (Bertollini and le Clerq, 2002). Puhler and Buhler also comment that instead of catering to the needs of cars the cities have become more people-friendly and therefore more liveable (2008).

There is also the argument that cycling has been so successful in Amsterdam because bicycling has become part of the upbringing of many Dutch households and it is now embedded in employment, educational and cultural institutions (Peltzer, 2010). There therefore suggests that cultural factors such as these are important as children are growing up; they see cycling as the ‘norm’ rather than something radical.

It should therefore be considered that from the example of the Netherlands there is the “necessity of a coordinated, multi-faceted approach” (Puhler and Buhler, 2008, pg.510) if other countries wish to include cycling as an integral part of the transport network.

References

Bertollini, L & le Clerq, F. (2003), ‘Urban development without more mobility by car? Lessons from Amsterdam, a multimodal urban region’, Environment and Planning A, Vol. 35, p. 575- 589

Peltzer, P. (2010), ‘Bicycling as a Way of Life: A Comparative Case Study of Bicycle Culture in Portland, OR and Amsterdam’, 7th Cycling and Society Symposium, Oxford

Pucher, J & Dijkstra, L. (2003), ‘Promoting Safe Walking and Cycling to Improve Public Health: Lessons from the Netherlands and Germany’, American journal of public health, Vol.93, No. 9, pp.1509-16

Pucher, J & Buehler, R. (2008), ‘Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany’, Transport Reviews, Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 495-528,

Photograph source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/activityandadventure/9986271/Cycling-to-Amsterdam.html