My name is Harry Walton and I’m a student studying in Edinburgh. While my studies are fairly interesting, the obscurantist realm of the PhD candidate will be of no concern to this blog.
Instead, what I am hoping to engage you with is the story of how this London-born cyclist spent the last year of his life having his mind blown wide open in the city of Amsterdam. And no, it wasn’t (just) the hash brownies that were responsible; it was actually the superb cycling culture and the ultimate utility of the typical Dutch bicycle and wider cycling culture that made the biggest impression.
For anyone who has experienced it first-hand, you will already know what I’m talking about. For those who haven’t, then you are in for a treat. Either way, I am hopeful that the things learned on my year abroad will be revelatory and inspiring for all who dare to stay tuned. In many ways, I intend to do more than just tell you about these things. You see, I believe that a cycling-utopia* akin to that of The Netherlands is totally possible, feasible, and viable just about anywhere that we choose to make it a reality. Indeed, given the frightfully high costs of car-ownership + the equally alarming problems of road safety/pollution/obesity in the UK, perhaps even non-cyclists will start to see the implementation of more Dutch-style cycling infrastructure as a wholesome and appealing solution to the ailments of modern British life.
At this point it is worth noting that the Dutch didn’t always have the cycle-centric culture that they have today.
Faced with mounting motoring-related deaths, congested streets, and an oil crisis, it was exactly 40 years ago that they made the choice to put cars second and to prioritise the bicycle in their urban planning schemes. It seems crazy, but it really was just that simple: they believed in it, they invested in it, and now they are reaping the benefits (see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuBdf9jYj7o).
So, how does all this fanciful and idealistic waffle relate back to the blog? Well, I think that before we can build it in the UK, we, too, need to believe in it; we need to see that it can work and that it is a desirable and feasible alternative to our current transport culture.
In order to do this, changes will need to start happening gradually, and on multiple levels. For instance, besides campaigning, writing this blog, and embodying the very spirit of the modern-human-who-rides-a-bike-instead-of-owning-a-car, I am planning to start up a business importing/building/selling Dutch-style utility bikes for the UK market. In this way, the blog will function as a useful medium for me to gather people’s opinions hear about their experiences of cycling in the UK. I want to discuss bike components, riding styles, the demands that you place on your bikes, and the adequacy of the solutions offered by the bike industry. Ultimately, my goal is to break down barriers to cycling on all fronts, be they economic, political, practical, or even infrastructure related.
Ambitious as it sounds, that’s the plan. Stay tuned.
*I think that this is closer to an urban ‘utopia’ than anything else I’ve seen on my travels: http://www.streetfilms.org/groningen-the-worlds-cycling-city/#.UlWZeaixZq4.facebook notice how everyone’s quality of life is improved by the proliferation of cycling. Wouldn’t that be nice?
- The City Where Bicycles Rule the Road (theatlanticcities.com)
- I want to ride my bicycle.. (bertfredbeth.com)
- Bicycle Safety: 6 Tips to Teaching our Kids the Rules of the Road (rescueyouth.com)
- 2,000 stolen bikes recovered by police waiting to be claimed by their rightful owners (standard.co.uk)
- True utility – Dutch style (dutchbikeguy.wordpress.com)
- Learn About Bicycle Signs and Markings (myparkingsign.com)
- Ride to work? You’ll need a bike barrier for that (theconversation.com)
- Oct 10…bicycles.. bicycles… more bicycles (euroblog13.wordpress.com)