Dutch cycling utopia threatened

2012-11-07 21:46


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Amsterdam - Problems all-too familiar to car drivers the world over, from traffic jams to road-rage and lack of parking, are now also threatening to turn the Dutch dream of bicycling bliss into a daily hell.

In a small country where bicycles outnumber people by 1.2 million, the Dutch have simply run out of space to accommodate the five million cyclists who take to the road every day, turning commuting in major cities into a nightmare.

In Amsterdam alone 490 000 freewheeling "fietsers" take to the road to cycle a staggering two million kilometres every day, according to statistics released by the city council this week.

"Bicycles are an integral mode of transport in our city," Amsterdam's council said, but, in a worrying trend, "the busiest bicycle paths are too small for the growing stream of daily cyclists.

"Cyclists have increased dramatically over the last few years," Wim Bot of the Dutch Cycling Association (Fietsersbond) agreed.

"In a small country like the Netherlands where almost every square metre is accounted for, we've run out of space," added Bot, whose "cyclists' union" was founded in 1975 and today represents 35 000 paid-up members.

Today there are around 18 million bikes.

New bike sales topped 1.3 million last year, raking in an estimated €970m in sales.

About 35 000km of bike path now criss-cross the flat landscape. These trademark red tarmac roads are purpose built, regularly maintained and come with their own set of road signs and traffic lights.

Municipal workers in The Hague alone have impounded 2 400 illegally parked bicycles since August.

Amsterdam this week announced a mega €120m investment plan to provide 38 000 new bicycle parking spots and 15 extra kilometres of red bicycle path in the city.

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