PN: Tell me how you first got into cycling.
EvdH: I’ve always cycled, ever since childhood. I’m Dutch but grew up in Germany and cycling there is just normal, nothing special. I used to cycle with my friends to team games, sports, school, everywhere. I find it really funny that when you see people cycling in England, you greet them; if you did that in the Netherlands or Germany, you’d be waving all day long, as cycling is just part of the culture.
PN: How long have you lived here?
EvdH: I came to England 21 years ago, and lived in Crawley, Croydon and Chelmsford, and then moved to Colchester 17 years ago. I like it here but it was such a shocking experience to see how different it is from Europe, the cycle networks are so poor and so few people cycle. I’m really disappointed that Colchester doesn’t have a good cycle network; it’s just not properly connected. And most towns I’ve been to here are pretty similar, although I do remember some good routes around Bury St Edmunds.
PN: Do you do much cycling in London?
EvdH: When I’m working in Croydon I take my bike on the train, it’s just 11 miles from Liverpool Street, and I’ve got a hybrid bike that I use for work. I can see that some places are making a real effort; you can get up to 50 cyclists waiting together at some of the traffic lights. But then there are bad pinch points at places like Elephant & Castle, that’s very different. I find it OK cycling in bus lanes, and the cycle superhighways north of the Thames are great with routes that are completely separate from the road.
PN: Do you like riding in groups, or do you prefer to be on your own?
From a young age I did regular cycle tours with a friend, and took my tent on my bike to France and other places. And I’ve toured with my partner here in the UK, to the Peak District, Devon and Wales. But no, I’m not interested in group rides.
PN: What is your professional view of cycling?
EvdH: As a GP, I know that cycling has so many advantages; it reduces obesity and keeps you fit. You see the environment around you much better. And there’s a global effect on health by reducing pollution and climate change. According to the UK Faculty for Health, climate change is now the biggest health threat of the century. And it’s sad to see that children miss out on the opportunity of cycling, because parents drive them to school, and contribute to the congestion. Did you know that half of all obese children will remain obese as adults? So I think that cycling is definitely the mode of transport for the future – it’s faster for getting around town, it contributes to our quality of life. I feel happier when I cycle. So it’s essential that we change our behaviour, to make people fitter and happier.
PN: You’re such a keen cyclist, do you ever do any home visits by bike?
EvdH: Yes I do. Patients are really surprised, but I think it’s important to set a good example, when your responsibility is to look after people’s health.