I knew that cycling in the Netherlands would be impressive, but it is even more impressive than I imagined. My initial thoughts are that I am constantly amazed by the number of bikes present throughout the cities and the huge influence this has on their overall character. Having visited cities in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Austria and Hungary, I feel that the Dutch cities are very unique largely because of the bike infrastructure and heavy use of bikes. The pictures below show the high numbers of bikes seen in the city on every street and the common use of bikes as a mode of travel.
The design differs from the US because bikes, due to the large number of users, are prioritized. This is evident in the availability of safe and comfortable bike infrastructure. The Dutch do not compromise the bike mode of travel like we do in the US – they find a way to include a cycle track or bike facility on every street, even if they must build tunnels or bridges that rotate when the boats pass through the canals. The priority of bikes over cars is also shown by the fact that cars yield to bikes in most instances. We experienced this at the roundabouts, where bikes were also able to travel in both directions. The prioritization of bikes is also evident in their inclusion in other aspects of traffic operations. For example, every movement, including bike movements, has their own signal at signalized intersections. This, in addition to the red pavement, makes traveling by bike very intuitive. I am not a very experienced cyclist in urban areas, and cycling in the Netherlands has been a comfortable experience. In contrast, cycling in the US is not a comfortable experience for the “interested but concerned” cyclist because of the car-centric design.
After the first two days, it is clear that cycling in the Netherlands is a way of life. From the various uses of bikes to the extensive bike parking facilities, cycling is a critical aspect of Dutch culture. We have seen bikes carrying up to 3 children and bikes with baskets and accessories of all kinds. The Dutch seem to have no limitations when it comes to biking, as they do not hesitate to use their bikes for a wide variety of trip types. The design of the bike is conducive to comfort and practicality. I already prefer the high handle bars to the lower ones on my hybrid bike at home. We have also witnessed Dutch cyclists of all ages, and this indicates that cycling is not limited to a certain portion of the population like it is in other countries and the US. Overall, the Dutch perceive cycling as a perfectly acceptable transportation mode for any activity, even if they are carrying a cello, have 2 young kids, or both.