Bicycles used more in Amsterdam than any other European capital

Bicycles used more in Amsterdam than any other European capital

Residents of Amsterdam use a bicycle for one-third of all the trips they make around the city, by far the most of any European captial city.

The city with next largest proportion is Copenhagen, with 26 per cent, followed by Berlin with 13 per cent and Berne with 11 per cent. Every other city had less than 10 per cent of trips made by bike, and most had less than 5 per cent.

Collectively, people living in the Dutch capital cycle around two million kilometres per day. Nor does Amsterdam even have the highest figures for cycling in the Netherlands: in Zwolle, for example, almost 50 per cent of all journeys within the city are by bicycle.

Health effects from transport in Europe

This information comes from a World Health Organisation (WHO) publication called Jobs in Green and Healthy Transport, which examines what health and economic benefits could arise from promoting cycling, walking and public transport as means of transportation around large cities.

According to WHO research, the transport industry in the EU is also a major contributor to air pollution, which at current levels is causing Europeans to lose an average of nine months life expectancy from exposure to particle matter alone.

Road accidents account for a further 120.000 premature deaths in the EU each year, while other adverse health effects include those that result from exposure to excessive levels of road transport noise, which affects almost 70 million people. Last but not least, transport accounts for about 24 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions in Europe.

Promoting cycling for better health & employment

As well as the social and health benefits to reducing road transport, the WHO also sees greater possibility for job creation in a wide range of jobs in the design, production and servicing of energy-efficient vehicles and in mobility management.

In Amsterdam, the WHO estimates that there are currently 1.606 jobs associated with cycling (excluding tourism), a figure greater than those of London and Moscow, which have populations seven and eleven times (respectively) greater than Amsterdam.

Should cycling levels in London, now at three per cent, reach even Copenhagen standards, the WHO estimates that would result in an extra 8.000 jobs in the British capital. They also estimate that would mean over 500 fewer traffic-related deaths.

"The pay-offs from these investments are enormous," said Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. "They include new jobs and healthier people from more physical activity, fewer road traffic injuries, less noise and better air quality."

Cycling in Amsterdam

Earlier this year, the Municipality of Amsterdam announced it was going to accelerate the introduction of additional measures to assist cyclists.

Overcrowding on bike lanes and in parking spaces near train stations has made cycling in the capital more difficult and the city is committing to bringing in a number of new improvements including 40.000 more bicycle parking spaces and 15 kilometres of new cycle lanes.

Mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan has, however, ruled out one particular innovation that is growing in popularity in other cities. When asked during a radio interview in New York whether Amsterdam has bike share, he answered, "No. The average Dutchman has 1,7 bikes, so why would we share?"

Sources: WHO, Municipality of Amsterdam, Bicycle Dutch, WNYC

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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