Cycling through 130 years of history

Mobility Conference Week coincides with the 130th anniversary of hosts the ANWB and in honour of the landmark, the club yesterday presented a fascinating look back to its origins in the world of cycling.

Cyclists in historic costume wheeling through the auditorium, interactive lighting sessions and a lesson on how Dutch bicycling culture is influencing mobility in Africa – delegates were treated to all of the above as the ANWB welcome Conference Week to the Hague with a two-wheel tour though the club’s 130-year history.

Guiding delegates through the club’s tale was club historian Hans Buiter who explained how, in 1883, the ANWB had been set up as the Nederlandsche Vélocipèdisten-Bond, a cycling club for men interested in racing bike.

Hans then took delegates through the story of how the club and its dedication to cycling influenced mobility in Holland and turned the Dutch into a nation of cycling enthusiasts, a passion that’s still very much in evidence today. The historian’s lecture was accompanied by cyclists in period costume riding antique bicycles through the meeting room, some of whom offered insights into how the club’s history unfolded.

The afternoon lecture was moderated by Amanda Ngabirano. An urban and regional planner from Uganda, Amanda spent some time in the Netherlands and her experience of cycling culture in Holland has led her to spread the message in her homeland that cycling is a healthy and cost-effective mode of transportation. So successful has she been in this endeavour that she is now know as Ms Bicycle in her native country.

Later, following a break in proceedings delegates returned to find a bicycle light on each seat, which they were encouraged to use during the course of the presentation in the darkened hall.

The session also featured a panel discussion in which a number of speakers talked about different attitudes to cyclists as road users around the world, with one Finnish delegate raising a few chuckles in the audience with a comment about the recent proliferation of middle aged men in Lycra on the streets on the country.

Finally, delegates were shown a new bicycle being developed by the ANWB. Still at the concept stage the ‘Life Cycle’ boasts greater stability than a normal bike and is thus safer to ride. This is particularly relevant in the case of older users. The electric bicycle also features a video camera, which displays images of what’s happening behind the rider.