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More about Fietsersbond

There’s no place on earth where a bicycle is as commonplace as it is in the Netherlands. And thanks to Fietsersbond (the Dutch Cyclists’ Union), the Dutch can cycle in comfort and safety. Here are some of the successes of Fietsersbond.

1975: Foundation of the ENWB

Oude poster ENFB

The Fietsersbond started life as Eerste, Enige, Echte Wielrijders Bond (the first and one and only cycling association). The association wanted to reduce the number of road fatalities among cyclists. The bicycle had to be given more space, the car less. In 1979, the ENWB had to change its name, after the ANWB (Royal Dutch Touring Club) sued them. They changed their name to ENFB, Enige Echte Nederlandse Fietsersbond (the one and only Dutch cycling association). In 2000, they changed name again, and have since been called Fietsersbond.

1983 30 km/h in residential areas

The Fietsersbond-led ‘Komitee 50 is te veel’ of was fighting to reduce the maximum speed in built-up areas. In 1983, the then Minister of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, Neelie Kroes decided that towns and cities were free to determine for themselves whether they wanted to introduce a 30-km zone in residential areas.

1993 Cycling in Comfort manual

Before 1993, the focus was on safe cycling. Things drastically changed in 1993. Council officials are issued with a manual that prescribed not just safety, but also comfort. The manual contained lots of ideas from Fietsersbond. The road surface had to be smooth and wide enough. There should be direct cycling links and a town or city had to ensure that cyclists did not have to wait endlessly at a traffic light.

1997 Bicycle sheds

The Fietsersbond fought and lobbied hard for years in order to get more and better bicycles sheds at train stations. And not without success: more than half a billion Euros was invested. This seemed much, but the money was gone in the blink of an eye. The number of rail passengers cycling to railway stations rose sharper than expected. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of people cycling to railway stations rose by no less than 46 per cent. These days, nearly half of all rail travellers use their bikes to get to the station.

2000 Fietsbalans

In 1999, the Fietsersbond started to assess the cycling climate in Dutch towns and cities. Its test team used high-tech measuring equipment in order to record the speed of cyclists, cycling safety and whether there were enough storage facilities. The study was called Fietsbalans and its ultimate goal was for towns and cities to learn from each other. The winner could call itself Fietsstad, i.e. Cycling City. The Fietsbalans worked well. Towns and cities were glad to receive the reports from the Fietsersbond and sprang into action.

2001 Cyclists from the right

Ever since its foundation in 1975, the ENWB wanted to put cyclists on the same footing as other drivers by giving priority to cyclists coming from the right. Before the war, cyclists coming from the right were given priority, but the German occupation gave short shrift to that rule in 1940. In 1980, parliament adopted a motion to give priority to cyclists coming from the right, but it wasn’t until 2001 that the rule came into force. The Fietsersbond held out the longest.

2005 Bicycle route planner

‘Is there such a thing as a route planner for bikes?’ was the most frequently asked question to the Fietsersbond for years. Businesses found the idea of developing a bicycle route planner an unattractive one. After all, it would require a database with cycling links and information on road surface, surroundings or traffic nuisance. And all of this had to be manually entered. It would cost businesses the earth. The Fietsersbond however did manage to pull it off, thanks to the help from hundreds of volunteers. They assessed and entered all sorts of links, also updating the system with any changes. An English version can be found here: https://en.routeplanner.fietsersbond.nl/

2007 Cycling school

Fietsschool_nieuwe_nederlanders

Not everyone learns how to cycle at an early age and older people are often afraid to fall over. That is why the Fietsersbond started to train cycling teachers. They teach children, parents and adults across the country, people who never learned to ride a bike when they were young. Course participants first learn how to brake and swerve safely on a safe track and will then hit the road under constant supervision.

2008 Decongested cycling

Motorised traffic is coming to a standstill. Only if there are good and comfortable links between towns and cities can cycling be an attractive alternative. In 2008, the Fietsersbond started a study with local experts into the need for fast express cycling routes. What did certain locations need in order to facilitate uninterrupted cycling? A cycle bridge? An improved road surface? Nowadays there are numerous cycling express ways throughout the Netherlands. These are routes between ten and twenty kilometres in length, where uninterrupted cycling on separate cycle tracks forms a good alternative to being stuck in traffic in a car.

2008 Crash tests

The Dutch TNO and the Swedish Autoliv started to collaborate on the development of an airbag on a car’s windshield. In a collision, an airbag can mean the difference between a dead and a dizzy cyclist. That was the result of an initial study by the reputable TNO research institute in 2008. The Fietsersbond gave the order for this study, which has come along rapidly and the actual development of a prototype of an external airbag is now in full swing. Implementing such airbags in the Netherlands alone may reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries among cyclists by 60 and 1,500 respectively.