The M25 closure, and why kids cycling on motorways can (sometimes) be a good thing

kids cycling on Dutch motorway

When the busiest junction of the M25 closed this weekend for the first time since its opening in 1986, our thoughts turned to office decor. Hanging above our printer is a photograph of a Dutch motorway, the road empty but for four children on bicycles.

For three months in late 1973, the Dutch government banned the use of private motor vehicles on Sundays to curb consumption during the oil crisis. The novelty of empty roads prompted people to walk, cycle and even picnic on these newly created public spaces.

The photo of the four kids cycling on the empty motorway is emblematic of a tipping point in Dutch transport planning. Coinciding with mass protests against road danger, the oil crisis helped steer the Netherlands towards significant investment in cycling infrastructure and public transport.

road danger, protest, people power

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

The works to the M25 will increase the number of lanes at junction 10, which is one of the UK’s busiest and most dangerous motorway junctions, but it may simply induce further demand.

Although the severe congestion predicted for roads surrounding the M25 works this weekend failed to materialise, as drivers steered clear, the closure highlighted the paucity of public transport alternatives.

We can learn much from the Dutch – not least a holistic approach to transport planning and how, very occasionally, kids cycling on motorways can be a good thing.

If you’re interested in how The Netherlands radically changed its approach to transport planning, watch our film about road danger reduction.

cycling in Delft

Perhaps the Twitter account @modacitylife puts it best: “Years ago, we began advocating for cycling as an affordable, sustainable and enjoyable transportation tool to get from A to B. Since moving to the Netherlands, we’ve realized it’s a transformative tool to create more beautiful, equitable and liveable cities.”

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.






  1. John Long


    In 1973, I was living near Munich. We also had car-less Sundays and cycled on the Autobahn. Unfortunately, after the oil crisis, the Germans went back to “the old ways” and The Car is again (almost) king. At least, their public transport system is still (much) better than the UK’s…

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Your name and email are required.