Fietsstad 2014: which is the Netherlands' best bicycle city?
The competition for the best cycle city in the Netherlands 2014 has begun!
By next year, the Dutch Cyclists' Union (the Fietsersbond) will have crowned their bicycle city, or Fietsstad.
This competition is a big event in the Dutch cycling world, and has already been gathering momentum for months.
The Fietsersbond has just increased anticipation by announcing the 19 cities that are competing for the award. It's now clear that this year's event will involve competition between some of the Netherlands' biggest metropolises, including The Hague, Eindhoven and Almere.
Interestingly, although Amsterdam is recognised around the world for its bicycle-friendly culture, the Dutch capital has apparently not made the short-list.
The last champion was Den Bosch ('s Hertogenbosch), which was given the award in 2011. Prior to that, the prize went to Venendaal (2000), Groningen (2001) and Houten (2008).
The 2014 competition focuses on the theme of "fietsen zonder hindernissen" - loosely translated as cycling without obstacles.
The ambiguous term, "obstacles," could refer to any number of potential issues faced by city cyclists. Pot-holes, faulty traffic lights or wayward pedestrians are just some of the troubles that can quickly transform a pleasant two-wheeled commute into a stressful chore.
Jaap Kamminga, who works as a project leader for the Fietsersbond, explains, "It makes quite a lot of difference if you can cycle comfortably on wide smooth asphalt cycle paths directly from A to B, or if you have to wait for red traffic lights constantly on bumpy tiled cycle paths. That difference can be an important reason for people to take the bike or to leave it at home."
Accordingly, the committee will be assessing how each city maintains its bike paths. It will also consider their size and practicality (i.e. do cycle routes involve laborious detours?).
The city which is victorious in Fietsstad 2014 will be the city that provides the most hassle-free environment for cyclists.
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