Short report on International Bicycle Planning Conference, Amsterdam, 18 to 23 june 2000
- VÉLO MONDIAL 2000
International Bicycle Planning Conference
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
18 to 23 june 2000
The versatile approach
This conference belongs to the VELO-CITY series that is aimed at presenting
researches, planning methods, facilities, promotion activities as far as
the bicycle is concerned. The previous one was held in Graz, Austria and
Maribor, Slovenia, in 1999. This year a world ambition was meant by the
title, as the venue was in Amsterdam that wants to be the capital city of
Nearly 45 countries were present, with of course a strong participation
from the Dutch, but also from other North European countries, in particular
the United Kingdom, that will host in 2001 the next conference in Glasgow
and Edinburgh. This issue was also marked by numerous delegates coming from
the United States, as well as Canada and Australia. Central Europe, Latin
Europe, Latin America (Brazil, Colombia...), Africa (Uganda, Tanzania,
South Africa...), and to a lesser extend, Asia (Japan, India...) were also
present. The absence of China must be regretted, as this country represents
over one half of the whole world bicycle mobility.
The bicycle problematics is very different in the different parts of the
In the Netherlands, everything as been done, or almost so. Nearly all urban
and non urban roads are fitted with cycling facilities. These facilities
form a continuous network, with very narrow meshes.
In cities, high quality roadways for the exclusive use of cyclists have
been built, but parallel roads are also dealed with cycling lanes or paths.
All junctions have provision for cyclists, including special signals. No
curb hinders the movement of cyclists. Bicycle parking is everywhere. In
railway stations, there are guarded parking facilities, and repair
Outside cities, motorway bridges or tunnels across main waterways include
cycling paths. Interurban trunk roads are doubled with wide carriageways
for cyclists and local access, separated by a planted strip or a ditch.
Trains and boats are accessible by cyclists with a small fare. Signs
indicate the way to neighbouring or remote towns for cyclists. National
East-West or North-South routes are signed.
But the most remarquable feature is the level of bicycle traffic: it
represents 28% of all trips nationwide. During the weekend, rural routes
are followed by families. During weekday peak hours, some queues built up
at junctions. In attractive locations (markets, railway stations...) it may
be very difficult to park a bike, since the demand is so high.
Beyond cycling congestion (that remains minor compared to automobile
congestion) some other drawbacks may be noticed. Concrete cobbles in urban
areas do not allow a smooth and quick movement of cyclists. Bicycle theft
is a real problem. The presence of numerous abandonned or poor condition
bikes make people paranoid. Motorist are less tolerant towards cyclists
outside cycling facilities. The bicycle path network is a maze, and in
spite of extensive signing, one gets easily lost. As there are many
waterways, long detours may be needed to find the next crossing if a
cyclist is trapped on the wrong side of a waterway.
The government has projects to improve the situation. Bicycle theft is a
priority item on the agenda, with technological solutions such as
electronic chips to follow up bicycles. To improve interurban routes,
cycling expressways are planned, in particular between Amsterdam and
Utrecht, with a good surface, a good width, a direct lay-out, and a clear
Now, urban planning already takes bicycles into account to a large extent,
with compulsary bicycle parking for new houses and good bicycle access. New
towns do more. In a new peripheral development in Rotterdam, bicycle and
bus access is fulfilled before car access [Ettienne Westbroek]. In Houten,
(site visited during the technical tour) car traffic is limited to the
access to neighbourhoods, and movements between neighbourhoods are detered
as they must use the ring road. On the contrary, bicycle and pedestrian
networks cover the city, and are separated from motor traffic. Busses can
get through the city by remote controlling gates. Thus, new developments do
not aim any more at integrating cyclists in a roadway designed for cars,
but at integrating cars in a roadway designed for cyclists.
A prospective work has been made to imagine the desired transport system in
2030 [Rita Kwakkestein]. To achieve greenhouse gases reductions, more use
of non motorized modes is needed, as well as a reduction of car use, which
can be done for instance with tradable CO2 emission permits. Such a modal
report would not have major economic impact, but would yield great social
benefits [Karst Geurs].
Thus, the present bicycle friendly situation in the Netherlands is the
result of an early attention for this transport means. In the 1960's, as
in the rest of Europe, the bicycle image and use have declined, and efforts
were about the car. But, as soon as 1975, the Dutch have again included the
bicycle in the transport policy, so that it is now an ordinary way of
travelling [Adri Albert de la Bruheze].
Other developped countries, in particular France, have of course some delay
compared with the Dutch experience. It would be pretentious for the
technicians of these countries to try to re-invent everything, without the
help of the knowledge corpus that already exists. In this respect, the
Dutch organize training courses, that could prevent the engineers of our
cities to make more costly errors. Cost-benefit assessment methods of
cycling policies have been implemented in four cities in four continents
Other North European countries are close to the Dutch situation, with a
multimodal transport planning. In Antwerp (Belgium), the situation is less
ordered than in the Netherlands (which is enjoyed by the Dutch tourists),
but the city center is given back to pedestrians and cyclists, and cycling
routes link the suburbs [Kris Peeters]. In Finland, a survey has enabled
the integration of cycling factors in a transport model [Matti Keränen]. In
the United-Kingdom, the Safe Routes to Schools project aims at favouring
children walking or cycling to school [Paul Osborne]; action towards
employers is at the core of Green Commuter Plans [Johanna Cleary].
The United Stztes, Canada or Australia are more concerned with leisure
cycling, when the transport system is designed for the automobile. In
Quebec (Canada) in sprawled suburbs, housing locations are distant from
activity locations. A survey on cyclist mobility has been done [Nathalie
Japan is an original case: bicycle use is high (16% of trips), but not
planned. Cyclists must use sidewalks, which leads to conflicts with
pedestrians [Masaru Kiyota et al.]. Another problem is bicycle parking
around railway stations, where bicycles are considered to be a form of
pollution. Official promotion of cycling only begins, for example in
Utsunomiya [Hirotaka Koike & Akinori Moritomo].
In developping countries, the bicycle relates to other stakes. It is not a
leisure item, but a means of dramatically improving productivity.
In rural Africa, for example in Uganda, 69% of the population depends on
walking. Carrying water (the well is 2 kilometres away), or wood and food
(the market is 5 kilometres away) is the work of women. The bicycle can
liberate them from this load. Transporting a ill person on a stretcher to
the nearest hospital (20 kilometres away) needs four men during an entire
day. By building a tricycle ambulance, one man can do the same job in half
the time [Christine Mwebesa]. In Morogoro (Tanzania) micro projects
(footbridges over small rivers, pedestrian crossings) can dramatically
improve the condition of non motorized users. Meanwhile, surfacing the
central part of a previously poor road worsens it by easing the speeding of
motor vehicles. But the latter projects are generally prefered by the road
administration [R. Tembele].
In Delhi (India), the bicycle handles 1.5 million trips per day. It is the
only means of commuting for the poor that cannot afford bus fares. Road
planning is only designed for motorized traffic. Yet, specific facilities
for non motorized vehicles, that anyhow are present, would largely improve
the traffic fluidity [Geetam Tiwari].
In Bogota (Colombia) the car free day on the 24th February 2000 has been a
great success. It only hindered the minority that usually travels by car.
But the majority of the population could enjoy the freedom of moving
without danger, by walking or cycling [Andrès Pacheco].
The situation of China, represented only in photographs, should have
focused more attention in this conference. The bicycle reached a historical
maximum in 1995, with half of all urban trips. From that date, bicycle
sales have fallen by one half, while motor vehicles, especially motorcycle
have boomed, and the cyclists' death toll has doubled in 12 years. In spite
of a desirable huge increase of public transport provision that remains
unsufficient, the bicycle will remain, for a long period, a cornerstone of
mobility in this country.
Thus, the small number of quoted presentations and many other interesting
ones give a good insight on bicycle problems in different countries, by
dealing with many aspects: transport policy, data and modelling,
facilities, bicycle promotion, urban planning, health, economy,
environment. But, as it can be guessed, the interest of this conference was
not only inside the conference centre, but also outside, where, for the
first time, reality was ahead of speeches.
Francis Papon, chargé de recherche mailto:francis.papon@...
INRETS/DEST/EEM, fax +33145475606
2, av. du Général Malleret-Joinville, F-94114 Arcueil France