“Ladies and gentlemen, meet the future! The future mode of transportation for the western world. It’ll change your whole life for the better.”
– The bike salesman from Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid
The idea that bikes will make the future a better place is one that many cyclists, especially city-based cyclists like myself, are fond of peddling. “Bikes aren’t just cleaner and greener than cars,” we’ll tell our friends in the pub, our colleagues at the watercooler or our elderly Top Gear-loving relatives.
“They take up far less space on overcrowded streets and are way safer. Not only that, cycling keeps you fit.” If the person we’re evangelising to is still listening we’ll usually add, slightly wistfully: “If only the UK could become a bit more like Holland, then London/Manchester/Glasgow could turn into Amsterdam…”
“Far from making Amsterdam a better place, Tiemen ter Hoeven explains, the huge number of bikes is actually becoming ‘a huge problem’.”
So well-rehearsed are these arguments – and so strongly held are these views – that if anyone contradicts them we’re usually quick (sometimes too quick) to dismiss them. Which is why I’m finding it hard to believe what the Dutchman currently stood in front of me is saying.
Far from making Amsterdam a better place, Tiemen ter Hoeven explains, the huge number of bikes is actually becoming “a huge problem”. I’m shocked. Have we been wrong all these years? Could it be that Amsterdam’s cycling networks are not the future of urban transport? What exactly is the problem?