On Monday 13th October, as part of the Sydney Rides Festival (sydneyridesfestival.net), ‘Reinventing the Wheel: How to become a Cycling City’ was held at Customs House, Sydney.
The guest speaker, Aletta Koster, director of the Dutch Cycling Embassy, had recently hosted a tour of The Netherlands (in collaboration with the Consulate-General of the Netherlands in Sydney) for an Australian delegation some of whom you might not expect: delegates from the NRMA and the RACQ [Royal Automobile Club of Queensland] accompanied the usual suspects (Cycling Promotion Fund, Australian Bicycle Council, Bicycle NSW, City of Sydney, City of Parramatta, City of Port Phillip, City of Melbourne)).
Whilst in The Netherlands the delegates attended various workshops and were introduced to ‘Dutch cycling’ and the practical application of this for Australia.
Three delegates presented their findings.
It’s this sort of collaboration that is the best way for change to occur. It’s not only automobile club representatives who are amenable to change but cyclists, too!
Here are some highlights from the presentations.
Willem Cosijn, Consul-General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands opened the session.
The Netherlands has more bikes than people (90M+ v 80M) . Willem gave nod, in a diplomatic, amusing and C-G kinda way to the room for improvement that Sydney could undertake (e.g. easing traffic on Bondi Road, Military Road).
If the King and Queen of the Netherlands cycle daily, coming from the “top down’ is surely the way to go!
Stephen Hodge (Cycling Promotion Fund) had gone on the Dutch tour.
Peter Bourke (Director General Cycling Promotion Fund)
Michael Roth, RACQ (Royal Automobile Club Queensland)
Myfanwy Lawrence, Australian Bicycle Council and City of Parramatta.
Atella Koster, director Dutch Cycling Embassy.
To sum up? Well, the Netherlands is egalitarian so there isn’t the ‘us’ vs ‘them’ culture. There’s no stigma about riding a bicycle, on the contrary it’s normalised and kids ride up front on their parents’ handlebars when young, they ride their bikes to primary school. Cycling is normalised. In Australia we address cycling by regulating and restricting it when we should focus on enabling cycling which is coordinated at a national level in the Netherlands.