There is only one way I can think of to start off my initial thoughts about cycling in the Netherlands: wow. We can read as much as we want and look at countless pictures of the bike infrastructure in the Netherlands, but nothing compares to actually getting to use it. Cyclists are clearly the highest ranking user of the transportation system here. They are prioritized at almost every place possible. A good portion of the time were cycling to and from Deltaworks yesterday and around Delft today we used separated cycle tracks. Most of the time cyclists were even prioritized where the cycle tracks made intersections with roadways. Cars usually had to yield to us, but when they didn’t - when we had to yield - it was very clearly marked. Also the intersections were raised for the cars to slow them down and alert them to the presence of the cycle track. We also used a lot of bike lanes throughout Delft. I was much more comfortable biking in these bike lanes than the ones I’ve used in the states. They were wider, more clearly marked (especially in intersections) and most importantly, drivers knew how to drive around the cyclists using them. One of my favorite stops on the Delft bike tour was the advisory bike lanes. Watching the bikes and cars interact in those spaces was incredible. Everyone knew where they were supposed to be and how to safely move around each other. Another great feature of the infrastructure here is all the bike parking available. There are 7,500 bike parking spots in bike garages in the train station alone. When we tried to use the parking, it was full! To me this speaks volumes about the quality of Dutch cycling infrastructure.
I think the thing I most liked about what I have seen so far is how clear the roadway is marked. All the bike spaces, be it a cycle track or bike lane, are marked in red. This uniformity leaves no question where cyclists should be - even through some more questionable situations. One place where I think the Netherlands excels is in intersection markings. Even through large, multilane intersections I always knew where I was supposed to be and when I was supposed to cross – which I don’t think I could ever say about the United States. The combination of the red lanes with the white outlines and specific bike signals made it easy to navigate. One new thing I experienced was biking a roundabout. The two types of roundabouts we used today were with protected cycle space and one with shared lanes. The protected one was designed so that cars entering and exiting had two different decision points – one to yield to cyclists and one to yield to cars already in the roundabout. The first protected roundabout we biked through also had a two way cycle track, which allowed cyclists to minimize the time they had to spend in the roundabout. The drivers respected this – even when all 19 of us literally took up the entire roundabout trapping cars inside. The shared land roundabout was one of the only instances today where I was a bit confused on how I was supposed to navigate it. The bike lane that led up the roundabout dropped out and we were mixed in with the cars to go around it. We all made it out the other side- but I’m still not sure if I rode through it correctly.
Overall, I’ve loved the experience of cycling in the Netherlands so far! The flat terrain, the infrastructure and the fact that everyone knew how they were supposed to be navigating made for a very pleasant experience. All the pedestrians, cyclists and cars interacted seamlessly, which is something I haven’t seen in the US. There are some topographical and cultural challenges to implementing a system like this in the US. All the hills, urban sprawl, and precedence of personal vehicle use will make it hard to develop a transportation network like the Dutch one. But despite these challenges, small changes are starting to be made in the US to make the street more bike friendly. We are on the right (cycle) track!