Dutch film on cycling change arrives in Turin

Author: Laura Schubert

At the Immersive Cycling Symposium in Dublin in late March 2022, attendees had the opportunity to watch the impactful film, Together we Cycle. This documentary outlines the Netherlands’ (often challenging!) experience of becoming the world class cycling country it is known as today. The screening of the film in Dublin inspired other Handshake cities to give the film a closer look, and to consider it within their own local cycling contexts.

Handshake colleagues at the City of Turin brought this film to their Mobility Department and they watched it together, with time reserved afterwards for reflection and discussion.  

One of the first observations made by the team in Turin was the importance of focusing on instigating a cultural shift – that cyclists are not just “hippies” or “radical chic”, but instead everyday people who choose a more sustainable way to travel. Getting civil society on board with cycling was one of the key points made in the film. Recently, local outcry from residents in Turin prompted the rejection of a project that would have provided a valuable link for the existing cycling network. Their argument centred around a lack of parking space that would have been made “worse” with the implementation of the project.

Turin’s Mobility team agreed that firm and “brave” political guidance are necessary to get such projects off the ground, particularly when up against local resitance. Recently, some locals against a new bicycle lane waited until the cover of darkness to remove cobblestones, bike racks and planters. This idea of “taking business into ones own hands” was also an issue in Handshake Cycling Capital Amsterdam, as outlined in the film.

Like many cities, Turin recognizes its ongoing struggle to allocate a sufficient amount of (dedicated) space to cyclists. The city has been designed for cars, and existing sidewalks are quite narrow. This challenge was also faced in Amsterdam, which is similarly up against historically well-established infrastructure.

The issue of cyclist safety came up as well. Despite having a speed limit of 20 or 30km/h in much of the central city, many would-be cyclists in Turin feel uncomfortable sharing the cycling lane with other forms of traffic – which is the case for many of Turin’s cycling lanes. During the discussion, one participant proposed programming the traffic lights so that they favor cyclists and public transport, and so cars are forced to experience longer travel times. Unsafe bicycle parking also discourages cycling, as noted by the Turin team. One proposed solution to this issue is the installation of guarded or monitored bicycle parking spaces.

Encouraging a stronger connection to cycling among young people came up multiple times during the discussion. It was agreed that stronger cycling connections needed to be made between the universities and central points within the city. Also, in order to foster an interest in cycling among children, it was proposed that courses and workshops be organised to help them feel more knowledgeable and confident to venture out by bicycle.

In conclusion, it was recognised that much of the cycling change that took place in Amsterdam came about because of public support against car-favoured road design and minimal public space. This appears to be one of the key differences between the former situation in Amsterdam and the current situation in Turin – residents in Turin are (still) resistant to changes that focus on spaces and facilities dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists. It could be argued that this public outcry is just a part of the process, and that not everyone (even in Amsterdam!) will be entirely happy with the outcome. Having the conviction and support to move past the outcry is an integral step to instigating lasting and meaningful change.

As they sat around the table after the film, the Mobility team in Turin felt inspired and motivated to continue to push for more walking and cycling. They agreed that trying new cycling solutions and taking decisive steps must be on the mobility agenda as the city looks to the future, with the hope of one day becoming a Future Cycling Capital.

Image by: Gloria Tarantino

Image by: SMNO Arch, Stefano Martoglio

Image by: Diego Vezza

This project has received funding from the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme under grant agreement no 769177.

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