Innovation and Sustainability

Innovation and Sustainability

The bicycle is born

The Dutch have been cycling for over 100 years. In the early days people used horses, donkeys and other animals for purposes of transport. Later on, carriages were invented. The bicycle however was the first human powered steel machine. This invention caused a true revolution in the world of transport. The motorcycle was soon to follow, and from there on the automotive industry was born and kept on growing.

The inventor of the chain guard

From the 1880s till the 1970s chain guards were being made from canvas. Willemine van der Woerd, a female Dutch inventor and the manager of a bicycle factory, together with her technical assistant, replaced this canvas by a plastic chain guard. It was initially built out of one part, but that was later optimised and built in two parts. The building process of these chain boards proved to be much quicker and faster. On top of this, they were much easier to install. Willemine also invented the child windshield and the dress guard.

Cycling and health

We are advised to be physically active at least half an hour a day, in order to remain healthy. One way to do this is to go cycling! By cycling half an hour a day at 16 kilometers an hour, you are able to cover 8 kilometers. This is the average commuter distance in the Netherlands! So, how about cycling to work or class every day?

According to research cycling helps in the prevention of a variety of disorders, such as diabetes, some forms of cancer, cardiovascular disease and depressions:

  • By cycling to class or work every day the risk of premature death decreases by 41% (-52% risk of death by heart disease and -40% risk of death by cancer). These figures relate to population averages and differ strongly according to age and socio-economic background. The greatest benefits are to be expected for people who currently do not exercise much.
  • Cycling helps prevent obesity, which decreases diabetes, heart- and cardiovascular diseases, and depressions.
  • Daily exercise increases your lifespan with 3 to 14 months.
  • Two thirds of Dutch over the age of 18 associate cycling with joy.


Electrically powered bicycles are up and coming around the Netherlands, but besides innovations of the normal bicycle there are also other developments. With the Human Power Team students from the TU Delft and the Vrije Universiteit have developed a recumbent bicycle that can go up to 120 km per hour because of its aerodynamic bullet-like design, the VeloX. Another innovation is the recumbent bicycle with cargo hold, which is being tested by delivery companies. Besides innovations in bicycles, there is also innovation in bicycle paths. Such as a solar bicycle path, bicycle paths with LED’s and bicycle highways.