On a trip to the Netherlands last week, we didn’t see a single cyclist. Just tens of thousands of people using bicycles to get about.
We didn’t see a single item of high visibility clothing and spotted only four riders wearing helmets. Most interesting was the healthy disrespect the Dutch appear to have for their bicycles; left overnight in great lines, the bikes jostle up against each other in all weathers and frequently blow over in the wind. Of course it’s of no matter to their owners as, for the most part, the bikes are worth no more than a couple of hundred euros. Most Dutch folk appear to regard their bikes in the way we in British relate to washing machines; indispensable so hardly a lifestyle choice and definitely not a sport. Coupled to this pragmatic approach to cycling in the Netherlands is a notable absence of conspicuous displays of wealth.
Perhaps it’s their Calvinist heritage, but there’s an equality in the use of cycles that’s at odds with the widely held British view that bicycles are toys for either children or middle aged men in Lycra. In the Netherlands there is no cycling gender imbalance and parity across all social-economic groups. When all of this is combined with world-class infrastructure, the result is towns and cities that are cleaner, more efficient and healthier for their inhabitants.
The reason all this matters is that we here in Britain see up to 36,000 deaths a year caused by particulate air pollution, not to mention the myriad other social ills caused by a near total dependence on cars. The crisis has prompted Public Health England (PHE) this week to urge the government to introduce ambitious policies including a redesign of key urban areas and a ban on drivers idling outside school gates.
The pleas from PHE are likely to fall on deaf ears as there is no political will to spend the necessary funds. Certainly we have yet to fully accept the economic benefits of good urban planning. While we were in Rotterdam we spoke with a civil engineer whose office overlooks the triumphalist architecture of the city’s main railway station. The huge concourse is largely pedestrianised and served by trams and a subterranean cycle park with 7,000 spaces which are accessed by bicycle travelators.
Looking down at the inter-modal hub far below, he told us “of course, all this infrastructure is terribly expensive, but we know that for every euro we spend on it, we get a threefold return in terms of reduced healthcare costs, efficiency and well being.”
Little wonder we almost 50 years behind the Netherlands…and counting.
Ethical cycle insurance
On the face of it, one cycle insurance policy is much like another, but the devil is the detail. How much excess you will be charged is just one of the things that varies wildly between providers. Another is so called ‘new-for-old’ replacement – many insurers use this term, but if your bicycle is more than a few years old, devalue it severely. This means you are left out of pocket when you come to replace it.
With ETA cycle insurance, however old the bike, if it’s stolen you get enough to buy a new model.
For over 29 years we have been providing this kind of straightforward, affordable bicycle insurance. Little wonder The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be Britain’s most ethical insurance company.