Hello from the Netherlands! After just three days here, I am blown away. Everything Dr. Watkins, April, and Dave told us about was true. A country as a whole that uses biking as a mode of transportation from point A to point B rather than just for recreation isn’t just in our dreams! A place where cyclists are prioritized isn’t just a joke at a city planning meeting.
The Dutch do everything with safety in mind. This was evident in not only experiencing their transportation infrastructure but in the tour of Maeslantkering and the much larger Delta works water system plan of the Netherlands. Every mode of transportation often times has their own signaling or opportunity to move without the other interfering. Sometimes every movement even has their own! In many intersections and roundabouts cars will yield to bicycles; this would be considered a miracle for those that cycle in Atlanta. Roundabouts for example will, when necessary, have a separated lane for bicycles. Vehicles will be given a space between their roundabout entrance/exit and the bicycle lane so that they can safely navigate the roundabout without dangerous or congested interactions with other vehicles or bicycles. Prior to the past few days I didn’t exactly consider the tiny things that could be done to traffic calm and detour vehicles altogether. Striping and signage, and having a population of vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian users that actually obey these are immensely useful! Grading to warn drivers where bicyclists have priority and generally lower speeds are essential. There are whole neighborhoods of woonerfs, or living streets, that have been created where there are rarely cars. It is filled with recreational space for people to walk, bike, play, and ultimately enjoy living in a city without all the vehicle interaction that normally comes with it.
One important thing I noticed was the Dutch ride with confidence. They know what they’re doing and they know they do it well. The second we hesitate and second guess, especially as a big group, is when we start to run into trouble or tricky situations. The Dutch navigate busy intersections, yielding when necessary to cars and construction detours with absolute ease.
As I mentioned earlier cycling is a means of getting where they need to be for the Dutch. At one point on our bike trip to Scheiden (to see the Dutch windmills) someone in our class asked Dr. Watkins if there were services that brought you and your bike back if you biked somewhere and didn’t feel like biking back. That’s when we realized how American-style we were used to thinking. This just wasn’t how the Dutch thought however. Biking is practical for them. We also realized most of the cars we see in the Netherlands are smaller, not huge SUVs and on none of the cars did we ever see bike racks.
I am beyond impressed with cycling in the Netherlands. The adventure is just beginning but I already feel like I’ve had the transportation experience of a lifetime!