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Engineering and education is the key

Better perception of road safety is the key to getting more Londoners to cycle in the capital, a Dutch transport expert has said.

Roelof Wittink, who helped devise Amsterdam's cycle network, believes safety is the “biggest barrier” to Londoners using bikes because they are too scared.

Last week was a black one for London's cyclists, with two young people killed by lorries. Mr Wittink told the London Evening Standard: “We have this cycling culture because we have invested in it and we are still investing in it.”

Mr Wittink, executive director of Amsterdam-based Interface for Cycling Expertise, said it took more than 20 years of legislation and investment to make it the world's “cycling capital”. Bike fatalities were cut by 54 per cent in the Netherlands between 1980 and 2001 as a result of road policies.

He added: “Twenty euros per capita per year is invested into cycling in Amsterdam. It's very important that people investing money into cycling in London listen to cyclists and cycle unions.”

Mr Wittink said Boris Johnson should learn from Amsterdam to encourage Londoners to use bikes and electric bikes.

“In London measures should be introduced parallel to the growing popularity of cycling,” he added. “People should not hesitate to use a bicycle, but at the same time they need the facilities.

If London had segregated facilities then fatalities could be reduced significantly.

“To combat the problems with HGVs you need to combine engineering measures with education. Cyclists have to be aware why they cannot be seen.

“We educate using lots of different ways such as in schools and using the internet. It helps that a lot of drivers in the Netherlands are also cyclists.”

About 150,000 of the Netherlands' 1.3 million bikes are electric and experts predict the number will double in the next three years.

In Britain, sales of the battery-charged bikes are expected to reach around 30,000 this year and 100,000 by 2012, according to the British Electric Bicycle Association.

It estimates that 15 to 20 per cent of the sales will be in London. In Amsterdam, 75 per cent of its residents aged 12 or over own a bicycle and half of that number use one daily.

The number of cyclist deaths in London fell last year to 13. In both 2007 and 2008 the number was 15.

Mr Johnson's transport adviser Kulveer Ranger said: “Cycling is on the up in London, with the Mayor at the forefront of a cycling revolution, which we want to be the safest of its kind.

"We are investing a record £111 million this year on improving safety for cyclists, boosting cycle training, more secure parking, and delivering flagship projects such as a 6,000-bike cycle hire scheme and the first two cycle superhighways — giving commuter cyclists safe, continuous routes into town.”

In Amsterdam, safety measures include:

* More than 250 miles of bike paths to protect cyclists from traffic.

* Traffic lights that have been adapted for cyclists — including timers that count down the number of seconds before the light goes green.

* Diplomas for new cyclists and free lessons for adults who have never cycled before.

* A school route guide to help students plan a safe journey.

* The majority of streets that do not have cycle lanes have a speed limit of 18mph.