By Spencer Maddox 6/5/17
After a few days in the Netherlands, biking here is much easier than the United States. Biking in the Netherlands is like taking a stroll in a park in the United States. It is peaceful and calm. If someone is faster than you (a runner in a park), they simply pass you on the left when possible. Many, many, many (and this is an understatement) more people bike in Delft than in the United States. The design assists greatly in accomplishing this.
The Dutch design prioritizes bikes. While biking to Rotterdam, we biked on a protected cycle track for most of the trip. We could go as fast or as slow as we wanted and never had to stop until we reached signalized intersections. When we did have to share a road through a bike lane or simply shared street, it was clear that bikes had the priority and cars always had to yield to them. Never did I feel unsafe or uncomfortable and never did a car zoom by me.
In the United States, cycle tracks are not widespread. The lack of cycle tracks forces cyclists to act as vehicles or ride in unprotected bike lines. From biking in Atlanta, the lack of cycle tracks is incredibly stressful, and I was thankful that I had a break from biking without one on the BeltLine. The most dangerous part of biking is an intersection, but even at Dutch intersection cyclists maintain priority.
The Dutch design provides signals for bikes separate from car signals. This major difference creates a two phase left turn. This left turn may take longer than a left turn if a bike was in the left turn lane, but is much safer. Bikers do not have to switch multiple lanes to make the left and also never have to stop for a right turn. The United States design values pure speed over safety, but the Dutch design maintains both and allows for users of all ages.
Figure 1: Signalized Intersection in the Netherlands
Biking through the Netherlands, I've seen people of all age biking and biking comfortably. The ages range from as low as 3 to as old as about 80. Only the track cyclists or young children wear helmets. Everyone is comfortable while riding and people of all cultures ride bikes. The culture definitely helps promote cycling and the infrastructure helps maintain the cycling culture. It seems to have created a positive feedback loop: as the culture would grow, so would the infrastructure and as the infrastructure grow the cycling culture becomes stronger and stronger. America is nowhere near the level of possessing a positive feedback loop for cycling, but hopefully one day it will be there.