This year I started with 56008 kilometres on my bike computer. It surprised me, as it was more than I expected. In 2014 I cycled 9097 kilometres, a distance roughly from Utrecht to Shanghai. I have cycled at various places in Australia, India, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and London, but in these calculations those kilometres weren’t even included, nor the kilometres on my road racing bike and the Dutch bike sharing system OV-fiets. It was only my bike for everyday transport, which, I have to admit, I also use for bicycle holidays. To be precise: last years bicycle holidays were a week trip in the Netherlands along small farm campings and a three week cycle trip on abandoned railway lines and towpaths via Strasbourg to Basel, in total 1700 kilometres. Still, most kilometers were made close to home. Those many short trips to work, to the shops, to friends and family add up to an impressive number. For me a bicycle is part of everyday life, something the Netherlands is known for.
The Dutch experience
To some extend I shared my local trips with visitors to experience the excellent quality of cycling in the Netherlands. I guided some tours in Utrecht, Amsterdam and Houten, but also had some some going along field trips, to explore new developments in my own work area while chatting about various topics. In the coming year I expect to cycle again through many Dutch cities to show what ordinary Dutch cycling makes our country very special. This year professional visitors are blessed with very good opportunities, as we have all kind of bicycle related festivities in the Netherlands. Scandinavians and those who want to be, are very welcome during the Winter Cycling Congress in Leeuwarden in February. In the program will be time reserved to cycle in Frisian circumstances. Europeans are specially welcomed in Utrecht for the European Conference on Mobility Management in May, with an extensive bicycle related excursion program. A different type of cycling lovers might be attracted by the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, in Utrecht. They will see that lycra based cycling is a very small minority in the streets of the cities. Obviously a visit to the Netherlands is not limited to these events, if you have the opportunity to visit the Netherlands, you are also very welcome to pop by and have a good conversation.
Experience shows that a few days to a week are needed to understand the quality of the Dutch cycling infrastructure. The ideal bike program consists of a good conversation with an experienced local and the visit of some cities including cycling to and from surrounding suburbs and rural areas. Only then it becomes clear that cycling in the Netherlands is not an isolated incident of a specific city, but a comprehensive way of life.
Bicycle facility of the year
Of course an annual overview demands a bicycle facility of the year. A lot of spectacular cycling infrastructure was delivered in 2014, so it seems hard to choose. In Utrecht the large bicycle park at the railway station, some fast cycleways, bridges and tunnels were opened. Municipalities renewed and widened cycleways or constructed entirely new paths. In this coming year again a lot will be built, Dutch municipalities know that investing in cycling is an investment in the future. But my cycle infrastructure discovery of the year is of a very different order. During a weekend in Twente we passed a very rural intersection near a farm. At first sight it seemed to be a simple and well-kept desire line, but it turned out to be an official bike path, with not only a sign, but also the typical Dutch “mushroom” signage. Effective, but also vulnerable in its simplicity. Vulnerable, because it can easy be overlooked by civil-engineers and right angle loving architects. I wish there will be more of these small scale facilities in the future to make cycling even more enjoyable.