Bicycling is very popular in the Netherlands. But according to a report by the Dutch SWOV Institute for Road Safety, everyday cycling has amassed such a crowd of regular participants that the bike lanes are getting crowded.
The sprawling, connected networks of bike lanes in the Netherlands are the envy of urban cyclists from other parts of the globe. But at rush hour the lanes become overcrowded and the indifferent behaviour of cyclists sometimes cause problems and dangerous situations.
The SWOV set up cameras at four major bike lane intersections in the Hague, and the footage revealed a variety of unsafe behaviors. Around 20% of riders were observed using their phones while riding, 80% pulled out of a lane to overtake without shoulder checking, and a full 5% were observed cycling in the wrong direction.
The problem is an interesting one to have. In an odd sense it is almost enviable for bike advocates in other countries where trying to convince people to hop on two wheels can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill. The decades-long push for better biking in the Netherlands has been so successful that cyclists now seem to 'fight for space' in the lanes during rush hours. But where it is a triumph for advocates, it signifies that much work is left to be done by planners and policy-makers to keep up with the demand. They need to continue the momentum that made the Netherlands into the world’s greatest cycling nation by widening the roads, expanding the networks and giving the people on bikes the space they need to safely travel.