During a walking tour of Breda, I discovered the local authority there have decided to reopen the harbour, what a good idea. But impossible of course, since it was filled in in the ’60s and an underground car park built across much of it. Yet wait, this is the Netherlands, engineering watercourses is a way of life, and they want their waterfront back, so the car park gets the heave-ho (with parking relocated to a more suitable location) and the canal gets reinstated, with harbour allowing pleasure boats etc to moor up, locals and tourists to stroll or cycle the banks, and this prime city centre area to look luverly and have a sense of place, rather than just being a car park and grim road. More information on the project (in English) can be found here. You will find on that page the heartwarming (for me anyway) phrase “Plenty of space will be set aside for pedestrians and cyclists in the area” UK planners take note – they actually mean that.
The Dutch let us down today. Junction with signs to Breda in three directions for cyclists – not too helpful… Oh well, that’s not bad, that’s the first gripe to date. We followed a 25km ish route today joined by Aunty Jane on a hired (child’s) bike. They have a system of numbered junctions marked on a map, with traffic free and low traffic routes in between. You pick your next destination junction, and follow signs to that, then look for the next numbered junction and so on. Generally works quite well. I’m still admiring the fantastic infrastructure for cyclists. If we had something more like this at home I’m convinced we could increase cycle trips and decrease car use.
Just posted on the family blog about how good cycle infrastructure is in the Netherlands (after a slightly petty gripe about signage at one junction) and that improving ours in the UK would almost certainly see a modal shift from car to bike. What I’m not sure about is how you change an anti-bike culture. The Dutch drive sensibly around cyclists, are tolerant of them making mistakes (and misdemeanours), I would wager there are few calls for compulsory tests, insurance or tax on bikes as are often heard in the UK. Cycling is deeply embedded in Dutch culture though, and we have lost that now. I’d like to hope that would start to change if we got to the stage where we had decent facilities for cyclists and hence more people using bikes. But I’m not sure. Oh, and before anyone suggests no-one will cycle in the UK because its hilly, and the Netherlands is Pancake-flat, I don’t expect us to reach NL numbers of cyclists or distances, but for many trips a bike makes sense, and for many more it would make sense with some major or even minor improvements to our infrastructure.
Oh, and by the way, Dutch roads are excellent by and large. Driving here is not unpleasant at all. Just often unnecessary.
Spent today in De Efteling, The Netherlands’ top theme park. Great fun, brilliant rides and short queues! All has a slightly surreal feeling, typified by the Goose Herding parade thingy….
I am a Philistine and a country bumpkin.
Went to Amsterdam today, too many people, too busy. Much nicer further south IMO (I am rather fond of Noord-Brabant). I lived for 16 years in London and never liked it greatly. Several years out of cities have only confirmed my views.
Oh, and I’m a Philistine because we went to the Van Gogh museum and it was just some pictures. I liked a few very much, but that was it really. Oh well, we can’t all be cultured 😉
DS (age 5) commented on one of the paintings featured in the museum leaflet “Yes, Mum said that it was his famousest painting, but I don’t think they look much like sunflowers”. Like father like son then.