THE DUTCH GOVERNMENT TAKES A STAND -- AGAINST CARS, FOR BIKES (from our friends across the ditch at CAN)
22 September 2007-
Dutch government has taken a trend to promote
eco-friendly cities a step further than its European neighbors by
announcing firm measures to discourage cars and driving.
The plan was outlined in the 2008 budget presented this week, and the
capital Amsterdam -- a leader in the drive -- and other Dutch cities
will use a "no car" day on Sunday, an annual event, to press home the
In the traditional speech from the throne read out by Queen Beatrix, the
centre-left cabinet said it would raise taxes on diesel fuel and
vehicles using it. Laws are also being drawn up to make taxes dependent
on how much pollution a vehicle emits: the more polluting, the higher
Unhappy, the Dutch car industry association RAi is trying to rally car
owners to protest plans, which are sure to have majority support in the
country's coalition system. RAi says the government measures will cost
drivers 500 million euros (700 million dollars) more per year.
But a number of cities, like Amsterdam, want even stricter action
against cars. Among these are Eindhoven, The Hague and Leiden which have
ignored drivers' complaints and joined Sunday's "no car" day.
On Sunday, streets inside the ring road that circles Amsterdam will be
closed for incoming cars and open only to cyclists and pedestrians
between 9 am and 5 pm (0700 GMT to 1500 GMT).
The capital hopes to show out-of-towners that they can leave their cars
outside the city and travel in via public transport or taxis, which will
still be running Sunday.
Amsterdam, where half the residents do not even have a car, is also
hatching other plans to clean up the air and unblock congested roads,
including a tax on sports utility vehicles (SUVs), Jeeps and other big
cars that run on diesel fuel.
Parking meters will be connected to vehicle tax records and drivers will
have to punch in their license plate numbers. The price of a space will
be calculated on how much pollution the car creates.
"The technology is available," Tjeerd Herrema, an Amsterdam city council
member in charge of transport, told the Het Parool daily. He wants to
introduce the system in the course of next year.
To back the measures, Amsterdam will build large car parks inside the
city for residents and just outside the ring road for visitors, linked
to the city's "park-and-ride" public transport system. Plans call for
doubling spaces in the outside lots to 2,300. At the moment, visitors
pay 5.50 euros per day to park and get two free public transport
tickets, which the municipality wants to increase to five per car.
Inside Amsterdam it now costs 3.90 euros an hour to park in the city
centre from 7 am to midnight everyday, except Sunday morning during
church service hours, but prices are set to go up.
The city also wants to improve public transport and increase the number
of green spaces in the centre, and Herrema is pushing for trams and
buses -- which now stop around 1 am -- to run all night.
The move to go "greener" has seen several European cities like Paris and
Lyons in France, Barcelona, Geneva, Oslo, Stockholm and Vienna stock the
streets with city-owned bicycles for cheap rental -- a step behind
bike-friendly Netherlands which pioneered the idea of bicycle sharing in
the late 1960s.
But Amsterdam has not forgotten its numerous cyclists, who are almost as
much of a tourist attraction as the 17th-century canal houses. The city
is setting aside 70 million euros for the capital's bicycle riders over
the next four years to pay for improving bike lanes, creating more
bicycle parking spaces and cracking down on bicycle theft.
Across the Atlantic, it seems NYC is getting the message, they had lots of studies into the opportunities and plenty of clashes and evidence on Video of it and positive direction comments like this, and now finally mayor Bloomberg is taking some refreshing steps for the Big Apple, as reported here.
Meanwhile closer to home our urban areas in the expanding city catchment of Melbourne are doing scant little to help things as Crowlie so succinctly puts it here!
Seems the local Melton Council thinks bikes are just for fun, that they are not worthy of inclusion in Council plans in any other way as legitimate transport choice, and thus ignores providing for cycling in its transport infrastructure plans in any thing other than a token way.
There is a myth, (debunked here) that bicycles are toys, and we grow out of them and drive vehicles for transport. This is rapidly being overcome by National governments like the dutch and major city governments, like NYC and in some ways Melbourne, but at a rural and smaller urban centre local government level, it is too often re-inforced because of small minds, closed attitudes and other personal agendas that just might mean someone has to take responsibility for spending some money or making a decision that may offend a few red-necked supporters.
It's about time some small minds woke up and took a whiff for the smell of the roses that could exist in the lives of people they claim to serve, not the exhaust fumes and angst they subject too many of those same people to now!