The Netherlands is one of the safest countries in the world to ride a bicycle. In the Netherlands, where almost 30 per cent of all trips are made by bicycle, the fatality risk for cyclists is 1.1 cyclist per 100 million kilometres (km) cycled. In the United States, where only about 1 per cent of trips are made by bicycle, 5.8 cyclists are killed per 100 million km cycled.
The Netherlands did not become one of the safest countries for cyclists by some quirk of history. The cyclist fatality rate actually rose by 174% from 1950 to 1978 with the introduction of cars. During that same period, the number of kilometres cycled by its inhabitants fell by 65%. Since the mid-1970s, Dutch cities have undertaken massive improvements to cycling infrastructure and introduced policies to limit car use in an effort to make cycling a safe and convenient mode of transportation. As a result, between 1978 and 2006, the fatality rate for cyclists in the Netherlands dropped by 81% while the km cycled per inhabitant increased by 36%.
The increase in safety and km cycled in the Netherlands has been attributed to:
- Significant government funding for cycling infrastructure;
- The provision of separate cycling facilities such as bike paths and bike lanes;
- Traffic calming measures in most residential areas;
- Car-free zones in city centres;
- Modified intersections;
- Bicycle parking facilities;
- The integration of cycling networks with public transit;
- Training and education of cyclists and drivers; and
- Complementary taxation, parking and land use policies.
Pucher, John and Ralph Buehler. “Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany”, Transport Reviews. June 2008.
Prepared by Kim Perrotta
- Leading article: The rise in cycling demands a new approach to safety (independent.co.uk)