Dutch Cycle Path Myth

Over at amcambike there’s a critique of the Dutch Cycle Path video we posted here the other day.

Most importantly, the country never “turned away from car-centric policies”, as the video claims. The road network was expanded continuously, by completion of the national motorway network, first planned in the 1920′s. Since the 1990′s, the emphasis has been on widening and upgrading main roads, although entirely new roads are still being built.

Without saying so explicitly, the video gives the impression that there are now fewer cars and less traffic in the Netherlands, than in 1975. Of course the opposite is true: the number of cars increased by 81% from 1980 to 2010, rising to 7.7 million. The increase was uninterrupted.

I certainly don’t know enough about Dutch transportation history to offer any insight, but what the critique of the video doesn’t offer is an alternate narrative for how the cycle paths came to be. The fact is that English-speaking countries “look to the Netherlands as a model for policy,” because at some point the Dutch did something right. It’s not necessarily that the Dutch system is perfect but that it’s a system.

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