The Dutch approach – lessons learnt from a Danish perspective

| November 26, 2013

What can Danish cycle planners learn from the Dutch? This was the key question when a large group of members from Cycling Embassy of Denmark went on a study trip in September 2013. 23 cycling specialists visited 6 different Dutch cities and our twin organisation, the Dutch Cycling Embassy.Even though Holland and Denmark are quite equal from the cycling perspective there are a number of things we are doing differently. In general, both the country and the cities are much more compact in Holland than in Denmark. This creates shorter travelling distances and therefore a much better situation to promote cycling. Some cities in Denmark are hilly, which is the primary reason for having lower cycling share than similar cities. On the other hand, having the world’s highest car taxes helps Danish cities avoid serious congestion problems.

Cycle parking

Due to the compact Dutch cities’ high capacity, cycle parking is essential, not only at train stations but also at key points in the city centres. In recent years, the situation seems to have improved significantly. Cycle parking centres of a high quality are being established and with capacities that easily exceed what can be found in Denmark. Ramps, light and a good overview are general characteristics, and quite often air pumps and bike tools can be found as well. Even the option of borrowing a stroller exists in some centres.

Utrecht station seems to be top of the list – in 2020 the plan is that the area around the station will have 33,000 bike stands in various locations.

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Priority for cyclists

In general, it seems like Dutch cities have been more restrictive towards cars, and have concentrated car parking on the outskirts of city centres more than has been done in Danish cities. 30 km/h is more normal in Dutch than in Danish city centres.

Dutch cities like Zwolle and Groningen give special priority to cyclists in a way which isn’t seen in Denmark – yet. Special rain sensors give better access for cyclists whenever rain makes waiting a really bad experience.

A countdown for cyclists at traffic lights is only seen in Holland and just like the case is for waiting pedestrians, the results show that waiting time feels reduced by half just as a result of the number display. At traffic lights, bike boxes in front of the cars are more common in Holland. Traffic lights with a special cyclist phase for all directions are set up in a handful of Dutch intersections while it’s just being tested in Denmark.

Both in Holland and in Denmark, cyclists are provided with special rubbish bins which are tilted in the direction of the cyclists. Cycling streets where cyclists have priority over cars have just recently been introduced in Denmark based on year long experiences in Holland. In Houten, a special fence reduces the wind for cycling commuters.

While 5 Danish cities have started building super cycle highways, these can be found on several routes around Holland. In Zwolle, they are made of concrete with a raised divider in the middle and LED lighting controlled by activity sensors.

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Lessons learned

In general, we can conclude that we should:

  • Build cities much more compact.
  • Extend the use of 30 km/h zones and cycle streets.
  • Provide higher priority for cyclists at intersections.
  • Increase the construction of super cycle highways.
  • Build more high quality and high capacity cycle parking centers.
  • Keep up the good work!
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Category: Events with the Participation of the Cycling Embassy, November 2013

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  1. The biggest news items of 2013 : Cycling Embassy of Denmark | December 30, 2013
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