Cycling Trends & Differences in Netherlands and America
The Netherlands and the United States have vastly different cycling trends. Not only does the Netherlands have a much higher percentage of routine bicyclists in their country, they also have a much lower bicycle fatality and injury rate. According to travel surveys, in 2008 approximately 26% of the Netherland population biked to work, while only 0.5% of Americans biked to work in 2009. Further data shows that cycling fatality rates in the U.S. are five times greater than the cycling fatality rates in the Netherlands. Additionally, cycling is common among all demographic groups and age distributions in the Netherlands (Pucher & Buehler). The Dutch Women and the elderly are much more likely to bike within their country than their American counterparts. These characteristics are attributed to the Netherlands’ superior bike infrastructure. America lacks the quality of biking seen in the Netherlands because of its the prominent vehicular cycling ideology as well as the large geographic scale of country. The large area of America contains more urban sprawl and more pockets of lower density populations than Western European countries. However, even the most bike-oriented cities in America such as Davis California, Boulder Colorado, and Portland Oregon still have lower levels of cycling than the least bike-friendly cities in the Netherlands. Other reasons for the far greater percentage of cyclists in the Netherlands may be due to the high fees and expenses to obtain a drivers license and own a car in Europe. The Netherlands also enforces cycling training and testing for children in school, which is not a requirement in American education systems (Pucher & Buehler). For these reasons, the bicycle infrastructure in the Netherlands is drastically different than in American because of the differences in perspective and culture toward bicycling.
Transportation Design & Planning
In many Western European countries, such as the Netherlands, the fundamental principle of road safety is to separate bicyclists and pedestrian (those who are most vulnerable) from fast, heavy traffic. Along with a high level of separation from traffic stress, the Dutch also require bicycle facilities to access direct routes for its users with as few stops as possible. Whereas, the United States has mainly pursued a policy of integrating bicyclists with motorized vehicles on the road. This anti-separation, known as the vehicular cycling ideology, requires bicyclists to ride in the streets with heavy, and often dangerous, traffic. These differences are important to note because it has hindered American cities from adopting safe bicycle infrastructure for its citizens. Although, in recent years many American communities have been shying away from this old perspective. Widespread change is seen within progressive American cities as European-style infrastructure is beginning to take root. Additionally, American cities have placed more emphasis on facilitating bikes on board public transportation, either by installing bike racks on buses or permitting them in railway cars. Similarly, the Netherlands is focusing on increasing the quantity and quality of bike parking at public transportation stations in hopes of better integrating cycling with public transportation. In this case, both the Netherlands and the United States recognizes the importance of bicycle accessibility and integration with other modes of urban transportation. While there are several differences between America and the Netherlands, the recent similarities show a change in mindset of American city planners towards safer and more integrated bicycle infrastructure.
Cycling Impacts & Benefits
All countries should encourage bicycling by improving the infrastructure conditions and safety. Not only is bicycling a practical mode of urban transportation, but it is also economical, environmentally friendly, and healthier. Owning and maintaining a bicycle is far less expensive than purchasing a car or paying daily public transportation fees. It consumes far fewer nonrenewable resources than any form of motorized transportation (Pucher & Buehler). And cycling contributes to daily physical activity, which evokes positive feelings and leads to a longer, healthier life (Harms & Kansen). These are just a few of the many benefits attributed to bicycling.
Pucher, J. & Buehler, R. (2012). City Cycling. Massachusetts: MIT Press.
Harms, L. & Kansen, M. (2018). Cycling Facts. Retrieved from https://www.government.nl/documents/reports/2018/04/01/cycling-facts-2018
Netherlands’ Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. (2011). Summary National Policy Strategy for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning. Retrieved from https://www.government.nl/documents/publications/2013/07/24/summary-national-policy-strategy-for-infrastructure-and-spatial-planning