How the Netherlands is leading the world in the cycling revolution
The Netherlands is famous across the globe for its high number of cyclists. The Dutch government invests an astounding €510 million annually (or €30 per person) in the development of bike infrastructure. When one considers these incredible numbers, one might wonder why there is such a focus on investing in bicycle infrastructure. And what is it about cycling that has so many people in the Netherlands relying on it as a mode of transportation?
It may appear strange to those who are not familiar with Dutch culture, but for the Dutch people, cycling is an avenue to lead a happy and healthy life. The positive effects on one’s health are significant. According to a 2015 study led by the American Journal of Public Health, cycling alone prevents 6,500 fatalities annually in the Netherlands and simultaneously leads to an increase in life expectancy.
However, this issue is about more than just health. There are also huge economic benefits from adopting a lifestyle based around using a bicycle. These positive health effects are estimated to contribute more than three percent to the total gross domestic product of the Netherlands. As a consequence of this, increasing investments in bicycle infrastructure result in a cost-benefit ratio that is favorable for the nation’s 17 million or more residents. Bicycle infrastructure is used by non-electric and electric bikes alike, the latter of which are considered to be more convenient – electric bikes have compelled many people to ditch their cars to lead healthier and more sustainable lives.
The issues with Canada’s cycling infrastructure
People in Canada are becoming more aware of the advantages of cycling, and its message is resonating with more and more people every day. In 2020, there were 1.1 million people who rode bicycles in the city of Montreal alone, in a province that has a total of 4.5 million bicycle users. However, the amount of money spent on bike infrastructure at the moment is not sufficient to satisfy the requirements of this expanding community. Between the years 2006 and 2017, there were 890 fatalities that occurred involving cyclists. While there are other causes that influenced these deaths, one of the main factors that led to these tragedies was the absence of safe and secure cycling infrastructure.
Bike paths in the Netherlands are uninterrupted, wide, and well-maintained, and make it simple for riders to navigate both the city and the countryside. The trails have an average width of 4 meters, making for a sufficient amount of risk-free riding space. Recent improvements to the already existing infrastructure resulted in an increasing number of people using bicycles as their primary mode of transportation. In 2019, it was predicted that the Netherlands would have a total of 22.9 million bicycles, with 2.4 million of those being electric bikes. Considering that the overall population of the Netherlands is 17 million people, this means that the Dutch own 1.3 bicycles per capita, which is more than any other country in the world. To compare, about one million bicycles are bought and sold worldwide on a yearly basis.
The vast majority of people who ride bicycles in Canada want cycling to be recognized as a legitimate form of transportation and want access to paths that are safe, secure, and well-maintained.
The need for bike lanes in Canada is only expected to rise
In Canada, there has been an uptick in the number of inquiries regarding the availability of high-quality cycling routes and lanes. Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and Andy Fillmore, the Parliamentary Secretary, made the announcement that a funding commitment of $400 million over the course of five years would be made to assist in the construction and expansion of networks of paths, bike lanes, trails, and walker bridges. There will be an annual expenditure of approximately $80 million dollars, which pales in contrast to the previous commitment. Canada must increase its spending on infrastructure, considering its sizable population and the growing number of cities. As the world progresses towards more environmentally sustainable forms of transportation, it is essential to make increased investments in bicycle infrastructure in the years to come.
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