Can Reading ever 'go Dutch' and become a cycling town?

Harstenhoekweg in The Hague and Berkeley Avenue in Reading The recent £1m bike path added to Harstenhoekweg in The Hague, compared with the narrow space a cyclist has on Berkeley Avenue, Reading

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Reading is one of many towns and cities in England striving to get more people travelling by bicycle.

But can cycling ever become a way of life in the urban town as it is in The Hague in The Netherlands?

Both would take about 45 minutes to cycle from one end to the next.

Lobbyists at Reading Cycling Campaign say poor road infrastructure and planning means it is unsafe to cycle in the town, despite a £20.7m Department for Transport funding pot that would pay for a cycle hire scheme and a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Hague meanwhile spends millions of Euros each year on its cycling network which has ensured only 20% of road users travel by car, compared to just over 50% in Reading.

Compare and contrast The Hague Reading

At a glance

Binnenhof in The Hague

The Hague has a population of about 500,000 living in an area of 37.9 sq miles (98.2 sq km). It is divided into eight districts.

Broad Street in Reading

Reading has a population of about 155,000 living in an area of 23.6 sq miles (61 sq km), but in the wider urban area the population is 225,000

Investment in cycling

The Hague Municipal Council spent almost 11m Euros a year in 2009 and 2010 on improving the cycling network, which includes replacing paving stones with a much smoother asphalt.

Reading has been given £20.7m for sustainable transport plans - the highest amount in the South East. This includes all forms of public transport but there is no available breakdown of how much will be spent on cycling.

Cycling stats

On an average day in The Hague, the percentage of people cycling is 25%, compared with 20% driving and 9% using public transport.

Just over half of Reading's residents travel to work by car according to Reading Borough Council. No other figures available.

Cycling trips

The Hague is a relatively small city and it takes about 45 minutes to cycle from one end to the other.

It would also take about 45 minutes to cycle from one end of Reading to the next.

Cycle network

The Hague cycling network

The city, the capital of South Holland, features 229 miles (370 km) of cycle paths as well as 43 miles (70 km) of cycle lanes. The green lines highlight this cycle network.

Reading borough cycling network

Reading, Berkshire's county town, has about 37 miles of cycle routes, of which 17 miles are shared with pedestrians or segregated from general traffic. The green lines highlight the improved cycle link plans.

Objectives

The Hague plans to increase bicycle use by 30% in the period 2010-2020 and by 50% by 2030.

The city council is also concentrating on better signage and improved recreational cycling.

Reading is aiming for 2,300 daily cycle trips across the town, a cycle hire scheme and a third bridge over the River Thames for pedestrians and cyclists.

Bike issues

Bicycle bottlenecks due to amount of cyclists. The Hague spends 250,000 Euros a year to resolve these issues.

Paths end suddenly and no separate cycle tracks. No known funding to resolve these issues.

Coming and going

90,000 residents work outside The Hague. 93,000 employees working in the city live outside The Hague.

30,000 people arrive in the Reading area and 24,000 people leave in the peak morning period.

The Hague is one of many Dutch cities where children and adults cycle from A to B as a matter of course.

Start Quote

The council appears to believe that if you paint a white line on the road and call it a cycle lane that is the end of the job”

End Quote Rob Wilson Reading East MP

"In The Hague, we want to promote bicycle use and its many benefits," a municipal council spokeswoman said.

"It is healthy, cheap, good for the environment and improves the accessibility of the city".

The Hague Municipal Council said it invested 11m euros in 2009 and 2010 to improve roads for cyclists, including a recent asphalting project.

Almost every main street in The Hague has a dedicated cycle path.

Poor safety

In contrast, in similarly-sized Reading critics including the Reading Cycling Campaign have complained of poor investment in safe cycling in the town with a few narrow painted-on cycle lanes and lanes that suddenly just end in the middle of a road.

This is a sentiment echoed by Reading East MP Rob Wilson.

Berkeley Avenue, Reading In Reading, lanes used by cyclists end abruptly

"I have been concerned, and said so on many occasions, about the poor road safety for cyclists," he said.

"Reading Borough Council appears to believe that if you paint a white line on the road and call it a cycle lane that is the end of the job.

"The problem is cycle lanes need to link up and, most importantly, need to be safe."

Reading Cycling Campaign chair Adrian Lawson said: "They plan a cycle hire scheme, but what is limiting people in Reading isn't the availability of a bike but somewhere to ride it".

He said the council appeared apathetic in its efforts.

'Irritating'

"We had a 'workshop' with Reading Borough Council officers, their consultants, and members of the cycle campaign.

"We identified a lot of simple things that would make it immeasurably better for cyclists. This was over a year ago. Not a single thing has happened.

"In fact we have had five workshops to look at different parts of Reading in the last two years, and there hasn't been any action arising from any of them".

Reading council deputy leader Tony Page said he also found it "irritating" that "we have historically developed a system that results in some cycle lanes just ending abruptly".

But he added: "Our road system is very constrained and we'd look at any suggestions, but we also have to balance the needs of all other road users - public transport as well as cars, lorries and pedestrians."

"There is only so much space."

In contrast, The Hague has 60 council staff working on cycling activities and projects, and it has just developed 14 "star routes" within their main route network "that link residential areas with the city centre in a fast, direct and comfortable way".

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