Dutch Health Minister Edith Schippers on Thursday took a cycling tour around the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium here to promote the Netherlands as a nation of bicycles and showcase cycling as a healthy and nature-friendly mode of transport.
The Netherlands had won the first edition of the Hero Hockey World League Final in the same stadium last week.
“The Dutch love to cycle. It is fun, healthy exercise, and nature-friendly. I am very happy to see that Delhi also has cycling lanes. There is even a Dutch company that organises cycling tours to explore Old Delhi,” Ms Schippers said.
Cycling accounts for 27 per cent of all trips (urban and rural) nationwide in the Netherlands, and up to 59 per cent of all trips in its cities.
Cycling became popular in the Netherlands in the 1880s, and by the 1890s the Dutch were already building dedicated paths for cyclists. By 1911, the Dutch owned more bicycles per capita than any other country in Europe.
The popularity of cycling as it is now, started in the 1970s when the Dutch took to the streets to protest the high number of child deaths on the roads: in some cases, over 500 children were killed in car accidents in the Netherlands in a single year. This protest came to be known as the “Stop the Child Murder”-movement. The success of this movement — along with other factors, such as the oil shortages of 1973-74 — turned the Dutch policy around. The country began to restrict motor vehicles in its towns and cities and directed its focus on growth towards other forms of transport, with the bicycle being seen as critical in making the Dutch streets safer, and its towns and cities more people-friendly.
There are 18 million bicycles in the Netherlands, more than there are inhabitants. These bicycles can be used on more than 35,000 km of bicycle paths. There is by far no country where cycling is so popular as in Holland.
In comparison, Delhi has 100 km of cycling tracks. For the first time, road design has accorded priority to walkers and cyclists in urban planning.
The Delhi government has also shown its commitment by placing ‘green’ local cycle stands at various points near metro stations where one can rent a bike at just Rs 10 for four hours. As a consequence, more and more people are cycling. Bicycle manufacturers have their second highest sales in Delhi after Bangalore.