Mass protests against the domination of cars were one factor that led to the superb cycling infrastructure of today's Netherlands.

Given the reputation of the Netherlands as a cyclists’ paradise, you might think that its extensive cycling infrastructure came down from heaven itself, or was perhaps created by the wave of a magic wand. Not so. It was the result of a lot of hard work, including massive street protests and very deliberate political decision-making.

The video below offers vital historical perspective on the way the Netherlands ended up turning away from the autocentric development that arose with postwar prosperity, and chose to go down the cycle path. It lists several key factors, including public outrage over the amount of space given to automobiles; huge protests over traffic deaths, especially those of children, which were referred to by protesters as “child murder”; and governmental response to the oil crisis of the 1970s, which prompted efforts to reduce oil dependence without diminishing quality of life.

The Netherlands is often perceived as an exceptional nation in terms of its transportation policies and infrastructure. And yet there is nothing inherently exceptional about the country’s situation. As the narrator says at the end of the film, “The Netherlands’ problems were and are not unique. Their solutions shouldn’t be that either.”

You can read more on the blog A View from the Cycle Path.

And find out more about what we can learn from the Netherlands in these recent PPS posts:

“What Can We Learn about Road Safety from the Dutch?”

“Where the Sidewalk Doesn’t End: What Shared Space Has to Share”

“Exiting the ‘Forgiving Highway’ for the ‘Self-Explaining Road’”

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