Leaving home for Amsterdam to check out the traffic arrangements for cyclists there, my partner Michael and I saw a van parked on the small rural road near our house in Clydesdale. Near it was a man with a red flag – this was not the red flag resulting from the Red Flag Act of Victorian times, through which any motor vehicle had to be preceded by a red flag.
As we found out, it was to slow us down because the finish line for a women’s cycling road race was up ahead. This felt like a fortuitous, encouraging sign for our research adventure. Indeed a mere quarter of an hour elapsed before the winning cyclist Julie Fitzpatrick passed the checkered flag!
A couple of days and a Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry trip later, we were heading from the port to the city. Along our route was my first sight of a parallel cycling route linking the two.
The next morning we were hiring bikes to check out one of the world’s best cycling cities.
As a Co-conveyor of the Scottish Parliament Cross Party Group for Cycling Walking and Buses, and having been involved in developing safer cycling in Scotland in the last parliamentary session, I was determined to experience this myself. Now here I was!
The experience of going from the suburbs where we were staying near Erasmus Park into the city and on to the museum area and back was magical!
We went along segregated on road cycle routes which flowed into narrow roads parallel to canals and then on through two parks to reach our destination. Once we grasped the traffic protocols for such things as junctions and for traffic direction on the on road segregated cycle lanes, we felt safe and empowered as equal road users with both motors vehicles and pedestrians.
I will return to Scotland understanding how well this can work and inspired to inform and galvanise those in my own party and other parties, Government and councils to grasp the opportunities to plan and budget for change here. It will be to the benefit of all travellers!