Cycling experts from the Netherlands were in Bristol and London this week for the first of a series of four 'Love Cycling, Go Dutch' conferences this autumn aimed at showing cycle campaigners, politicians and transport professionals in the UK how the Dutch were able to achieve such high levels of cycling and what lessons from across the North Sea can be applied here.
Similar invitation only conferences will take place in Edinburgh on November 13 and in Manchester on November 20, with around 150 delegates attending each session, which build on the Love London, Go Dutch campaign from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) and are organised by the Dutch Embassy to the UK.
Attendees at Thursday’s conference in London included Transport Minister Norman Baker, the Dutch ambassador to the UK, Laetitia van den Assum, Philip Darnton, former chair of Cycling England who now heads up the Bicycle Association, and Transport for London director, Ben Plowden.
They were joined by councillors and officers from London boroughs, journalists and bloggers, and representatives of British Cycling, CTC, Sustrans and the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.
On Wednesday, staff from TfL, local councils and cycling and walking campaigners attended a workshop where they produced a people-friendly redesign of the approaches to Lambeth Bridge.
Presenting the results of that workshop to Thursday’s conference, Marjolein de Lange of the Dutch Cycling Embassy backed earlier calls from LCC for a redesign of the roundabouts at both ends of the bridge.
Following Thursday’s conference, Ashok Sinha, LCC’s chief executive, said: “We’re delighted to have played our part in bringing Transport for London, national and local UK politicians and civil servants, and Dutch politicians, business people and infrastructure experts together under one roof for the first time.
“London cycling needs political leadership, and we’d like the Mayor and Transport for London to build on the positive aspirations generated of the conference and explain exactly how they plan to implement their three Love London, Go Dutch commitments.”
In common with the other main candidates for the London mayoral elections in May, Mr Johnson signed up to the three key points of LCC’s Love London, Go Dutch pledge, which the organisation summarises as:
1 - Implement three flagship Love London, Go Dutch developments on major streets and/or locations
2 - Make sure all planned developments on the main roads that they controls are completed to Go Dutch standards, especially junctions.
3 - Make sure the Cycle Superhighways programme is completed to Love London, Go Dutch standards.
In a letter received by LCC earlier this month, Mr Johnson said: “Following my commitment during the election campaign, I asked Transport for London to review the London Cycling Campaign’s Love London, Go Dutch to ascertain how the principles it establishes can be incorporated into the design and implementation of cycling schemes in London, taking into account the UK legal framework and regulations, the physical characteristics of London’s streets, and the needs of all road users.”
Ahead of the conference in Bristol earlier in the week, a traffic engineer from the Netherlands said that the city, which benefited from £22 million funding after securing Cycling City status in 2008, still needed to improve conditions for bike riders.
Quoted on BBC News Bristol, Vim Van der Wijk said: "The city needs to promote cycling and provide the infrastructure to make it better and more comfortable for cyclists."When you have more people go by bicycle to the city centre there will be less people go by car so you need less space for cars - the money you save you can use for good cycle facilities."
Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of the sustainable transport charity Sustrans which is headquartered in the city, said: "We need to know from the Dutch how they achieve this high level of cycling - we know its from segregating cycle routes from pedestrians.
"To get close to that figure here will take time and will need planning and will need great deal of commitment from a new elected mayor in Bristol.
"But it's all about design and there must be a willingness to give a greater priority to cyclists on our highways so it's a safer environment for everyone.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.