We were shocked during the holiday season to find out one morning that a young cyclist was killed while riding his bike across a notorious junction, on the boulevard.
The young man was mourned by the cycling community, and while they paid tribute to their fallen peer, they realized there is strength in numbers.
Apparently over the past years the cycling community, both recreational and competitive has grown and there are a great number of stakeholders involved in the activity.
On Monday, the media, and a number of sport organizations were invited to the Seaport Cinemas for a screening of a Dutch documentary, GEWOON FIETSEN or Why We Cycle – it did feature a few snippets in English and it highlighted how innate, essential and characteristic cycling is to the Dutch culture, and suggested we should follow in those footsteps.
Hotelier Jurgen Van Schaijk, an avid cyclist, helped host the gathering in which he and his fellow-organizers presented a three-pronged plan to safely grow the cycling community on the island, especially among children, who derive such sense of freedom and independence from riding their bikes, providing they thoroughly understand the rules of the road.
The WHY WE BIKE initiative strives to promote cycling as a healthy strategy in the fight against over-weight and diabetes.
The initiative strives to educate the driving and riding populations about road safety, and the need to prioritize cyclists and pedestrians.
The initiative also announced a number of upcoming cycling events, national first, and international on the horizon.
There are so many benefits to making the bicycle a more frequent mode of transportation, I could fill three pages, and if the initiative manages to make biking safer on Aruba, the number of cars on the road could be reduced, also partially solving parking and pollution challenges.
Of course, our terrain is not as flat as that of the Netherlands and our weather is not bike-friendly most of the year with high temperatures and strong winds, but the need of taking cyclists into account in all stage of urban planning was made urgent by the fatal recent accident.
Organizers say that education is key, not just in theory, but on the road, in real traffic situation, so that kids can ride confidently, even beyond their neighborhoods. And motorists must learn to respect cyclists, as part as the license curriculum.
WHY WE CYCLE presents the bike culture in the Netherlands as ‘gewoon,’ meaning ordinary, simple, nothing special, part of life, intrinsic. The Dutch are practical and pragmatic, and bicycles fit in with their modest philosophy of commute which aims at getting from point A to point B with no attention paid to the mode of transport. The average Dutch bike is a clunker, a beat up, no frill set of wheels with a basket attached.
I recently saw a documentary about Amsterdam, and its bicycle congestion and bike parking challenges. I wish it on Aruba. More bikes. Less cars.