Amsterdam wasn’t always Amsterdam

dutch cycling is an example to us all

Whenever you hear “we’re not Amsterdam” when imagining a better city, don’t forget that half a century ago neither was Amsterdam.

David Attenborough’s Blue Planet wasn’t the first time a piece of footage helped drive environmental change. Another poignant example of television that galvanised people power was broadcast in the Netherlands in the early 1970s.

According to the website bicycledutch: “The documentary was about the Amsterdam neighbourhood “De Pijp” which was about 100 years old at the time. The homes were run down and small. The streets were never built, nor fit for all the cars brought in by the 40,000 people living in the small area and its many visitors. This led to an overpopulated neighbourhood with a lot of dirt and filth and especially the children suffered. The documentary is one of a series and this particular episode looks at the situation from a child’s perspective.”

Below is an abridged version subtitled in English.

The road rage of the white van driver and the resolute way in which others dismiss the idea of streets closed to motorised traffic are incomprehensible to the Dutch today, but unfortunately, this sort of attitude is culturally ingrained here in Britain.

road danger, protest, people power

People Power: Dutch folk protesting against road danger in the early 1970s

The Dutch documentary inspired journalists to write opinion pieces which in turn played a part in the formation of the “Stop de Kindermoord” (stop the child murder) movement, and series of mass protests and ultimately a change in culture. The rest is history. The Netherlands lead the world with their systematic approach to road danger reduction and a vision of reducing road deaths to zero.

“The city is where people come to work, raise families, walk in the evening. It is not a traffic corridor” John Norquist

We know what it takes to build healthy and safe cities; there’s an abundance of wisdom and experience out there. The reason we tolerate the child deaths, air pollution and huge financial burden caused by motorised traffic isn’t a lack of knowledge – it’s a shameful lack of political will.

A rational approach to road danger reduction isn’t just about stopping the death of children, it’s about helping them to thrive. Odense is the third-largest city in Denmark and yet 81% of children ride to school, generally without their parents. Here in Britain, it’s less than 2%.

Stop Killing our Children

We made a short documentary to illustrate the dreadful toll of road danger and how the UK could emulate the Netherlands. Stop Killing our Children examines how road danger damages us all, whatever our age and however we travel, and questions our collective blindness to both its cause and remedy. The 40-minute, crowdfunded film is narrated by the BBC’s John Simpson and features interviews with Chris Boardman, Dr Rachel Aldred, Dr Ian Walker, George Monbiot and the founders of the Stop de Kindermoord movement amongst others.Please help turn the tide against road danger

Ethical insurance

Not only are we Britain’s most ethical provider, we have a charity that campaigns for sustainable transport. Sometimes that means protesting until a school gets the zebra crossing they’ve been refused, or running 60 roadshows to encourage people out of their cars, or fixing bicycles for free. Supporting this work is easy – you can simply take out insurance with us. We provide a range of insurance products  – all while putting concern for the environment at the heart of what we do.

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