So the bicycle has only existed for a relatively short time. And it is not a given that it will still be around a century from now. The role the bicycle plays on our mobility system can change significantly in the coming decades. On the one hand, the bicycle has good prospects in 2018 thanks to the introduction of e-bikes, multimodal planners and flexible working. The increasing attention to the quality of life in urban and rural areas and the greater need for a healthy lifestyle also mean we cannot live without bicycles. On the other hand, there are the developments surrounding the self-driving car. These could be a serious threat to bicycles when it comes to availability, freedom and flexibility. With a vision for the bicycle in 2040, the Fietsersbond is ready to respond to these developments.
Trends in politics and our communities
Multiple trends will affect the use of the bicycle in the coming years. Think of: urbanisation, climate change, healthy living, migration, aging and a disturbing dichotomy in transport options and the new opportunities offered by smart mobility.
Urban agglomerations grow and get a transport system with public transport and the bicycle as its backbone. On the other side of the coin are shrinking areas where fewer and fewer people continue to live. This means the facilities will be at a greater distance, meaning residents become more dependent on the car. The e-bike may provide a solution here.
Smaller cities and Vinex neighbourhoods form the ‘middle country’. The bicycle can play a role here through an intricate (fast) cycling infrastructure combined with flexible Mobility as a Service systems, in which mobility was offered as a product.
Besides good living and smart working, healthy living is increasingly found on the political agenda. Around the world, progressive cities are working on healthy living in their city. The Netherlands is also following that trend. Cities that are best able to combine social, spatial and environmental challenges with appealing solutions can ensure economic growth. We are less and less accepting of the inequality in quality of life between socio-economic groups and neighbourhoods.
The elderly are becoming increasingly active. Positive experiences are often central in their lives. Problems with muscle strength, balance, vision and/or hearing are increasingly being compensated by new technological solutions. A shift in this group from utilitarian to more recreational cycling has financial consequences. Because the elderly are overrepresented in the accident figures, investments in busy recreational routes are quickly socially profitable.
What does the increasing cultural diversity mean for bicycle use in the Netherlands? In expat neighbourhoods, you see more bicycle helmets in the street, which can give cycling a more unsafe image. On the other hand, people with a migration background are sometimes very motivated to learn how to cycle ‘like a Dutchman’. They see this as the ultimate proof of their successful participation in the Dutch society.
Since the Paris climate agreement, mobility has been an important factor in achieving the objectives for CO2 reduction. There is enormous potential for bicycles here. More than 3.6 million people live within (e-)cycling distance from their work. The CO2 savings and the space freed up by transitioning to bicycles should not be underestimated.
Opposite the people who are doing well, there is a growing group that lives in poverty. These people are also confronted with increasing transport poverty. The lack of sufficient means to move around, whether it is the car, the bicycle or public transport, stands in the way of social participation and only increases disadvantages.
Not just cars, but the millions of bicycles increasingly cause nuisance. Many bicycles can be used more efficiently as part of a sharing system. Connectivity between vehicles and with the infrastructure leads to forms of smart mobility of which the bicycle will be a part.
Trends in bicycle use
The number of cyclists in the city is increasing year after year. That is what we assume, but we do not know exactly. In Amsterdam and Utrecht, the number of cyclists is growing, but what about Utrecht Overvecht and Amsterdam Nieuw-West specifically? And in Sittard and Nieuwegein? We now know a lot about bicycle use in the Netherlands, but clear trends about bicycle use in any municipality are like statistical quicksand. We know that the development of bicycle use shows major differences between the four major cities (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht), municipalities with 100,000 inhabitants or more and other municipalities.
Especially in the four major cities (G4), the bicycle use as a main means of transport, expressed in quantities of trips and kilometres, has increased spectacularly between 2005 and 2016. This is largely a catch-up: the bicycle use in the G4 was much lower than elsewhere, and is now relatively high. Striking is that the share of the bicycle in all movements has increased in all municipality classes (G4, 100,000, other). In these figures, three aspects that explain the crowdedness on cycling paths are not yet included:
- The crowdedness is not evenly distributed even in large cities. There is much more cycling in the centre and the old shell than in the suburbs. The bicycle share is increasing the most there.
- The figures only show bicycles as the main transport method. Trips to and from the train station are not included. And it is precisely the combination of bicycle-train that has increased immensely in recent years – in the places where it was already busy.
- The figures relate to the number of bicycle movements per person per day. If one region (Amsterdam, Utrecht, Groningen) has an increasing number of residents and the other (Oost-Groningen, Zuid-Limburg) has a decreasing number of residents, this reinforces the effect that it is becoming both busier and calmer at the same time.