Velo-city 2017: Day 2 Highlights

What’s actually in it for you, me us? That was the main theme of the second day of Velo-city 2017. It is good to have the great theories of cylcling, but what can it do in practice?

Well, quite a lot, according to Manfred Neun of the European Cyclists Federation. He showed hardcore numbers of the benefits of cycling, both on the economy as on economics. The bottom line: each year, the European Union gains over 513 billion euros from cycling. The biggest gains are not surprisingly in health benefits, but the runner up is one not a lot of people would expect: shopping. Shopping cyclist spend around 111 billion euros, ‘which is great news for shopping centres, since they don’t have to develop big shopping malls on the outskirts of cities.


Developing countries facing other challenges. Julia Nebrija showed that in the Philippine capital Manila, there is hardly any planning. The 24 million people (15,000 people per square kilometre) in the greater Manila area have very limited access to public transport. With a growing wealth, the Philippines try to copy the western examples and give room for the car. The consequence: 4.6 percent of the Philippine gdp is wasted with traffic jams. On an average, a Philippino spends 20 percent of his budget on transport. A bike, however, is free. Also, the bike fills the gaps which are left behind with public transport. The bike, even in a developing mega capital as Manila, is growing in popularity.

That is also the case in the tiny nation Bhutan, with 1 million people squeezed between neighbouring giants China and India in the Himalayas. Yes, cycling is a challenge there, Thinley Namgyel of the National Environment Commission, told. But cycling is one of the key elements in the famous Gross National Happiness. That consist of four pillars: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of culture and environmental conservation. The King and Queen and prime ministers are using the bicycle. Buthan is seeing a trend of using the bicycle as just a recreational and sport vehicle to a form of local transport. “You can’t buy happiness, but you can ride a bike and that’s pretty close”, he concluded.


It is without a doubt that parkinson patients are getting happier as well with cycling. Dr. Bas Bloem of the Radboud University Medical Centre showed that these patients, as well patients with parkinson-like syndromes, have a lot of problems with walking. But cycling is often no problem at all. Besides, patients move better after exercise and the parkinson process is slowed. A nearly 80 year old patient of Dr. Bloem has launched a start up with his own walking bike. The case of a 58-year old patient who mysteriously glued to the ground, but had no problems with cycling at all, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, but not after adding a huge disclaimer that the patient wasn’t wearing a helmet.

With a special charter train, 700 Velo-city attendees visited Amsterdam to look with their own eyes how cycling is incorporated in a large scale city. On our way to Amsterdam, NS, the national railway operator, told that 40 percent of all the trips to the station are made by bike; ten times more often than in other European countries. For the last mile, NS has the OV-fiets, a bike sharing system on 300 locations. 2.4 million trips with the OV-fiets each year and it’s rapidly growing. Libor Lochmann of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies said NS has set a European example. CO2-emissions are reduced by a third when people switch from cars to bicycle and train combination.


Amsterdam welcomed the attendees with a warm cycling welcome and rare good weather. In groups, everyone experienced how Amsterdam is handling the large group of cyclists by giving room and cutting rules. The shared space on the IJ riverside at Amsterdam Central Station and the underpass at the Rijksmuseum were one of the highlights. The day was concluded in the Westergasfabriek at the Westerpark, a former industrial area which has been transformed in a space where cyclists and pedestrians come first.


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