'Going Dutch' on Newsnight

Last night the current affairs programme Newsnight aired a report on cycling in the Netherlands, and how Britain can learn lessons from the Dutch.

Anna Holligan, the BBC's Netherlands correspondent and CEoGB guest blogger, rode from The Hague – the seat of the Dutch parliament – to Westminster, meeting advocates, politicians and experts along the way – and also the Association of British Drivers.

Anna described how the Netherlands has not always been a cycling paradise, observing how in the 1960s 'cyclists were squeezed to the kerb as car ownership rocketed'. It was a political decision to reverse the growing number of child deaths, and to make their towns and cities pleasant and safe places - decisions we see the fruits of today.

Marc van Woudenberg - Amsterdamize - explained how attempts are being made to transfer the Dutch way of doing things to Britain, and echoed the argument that 'Going Dutch' is about making political choices. 

I hear many excuses, or myths, about what makes the Dutch supposedly so different. There are more similarities than differences. It is not about the climate; it's the same. Flat? There would be Amsterdams all over the world. It's not that. It's about making a choice, and prioritising what you want. 

The report showed how Dutch cyclists are protected, and made to feel safe, with measures such as dedicated traffic signals, cycle tracks, and separation from motor traffic.

Once Anna arrived in Britain, however, things were clearly rather different.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, enthused about the 'totally different culture' of Dutch cities, and the 'more relaxed feel' of the way people cycle. However, while he said he 'believed in segregation, where it's possible to do', he argued that

We don't have - in the centre of London particularly - enough road space to consecrate entirely to cyclists.

Anna's report ended with a reminder that MPs will be debating the Get Britain Cycling Report in Parliament on September 2nd. This debate coincides with another Space for Cycling protest, which will see thousands taking to their bikes to demand the reallocation of road space in London.

You can also read  Anna Holligan's report - Why is cycling so popular in the Netherlands