Overall, Atlanta’s bike facilities were better than I thought they would be. Even though I am not the most experienced biker in the world, I felt fairly safe on the route we took. The cycle track on 10th Street was nice because of the physical barrier between the bikers and cars. And of course the Beltline was great, getting to be completely separated from vehicles. From there, we got on some roads with bike lanes and here is where I began feeling less comfortable. Even though it’s a designated space for cyclists, there were many ways we would have to adjust for cars. Cars were parked there that we had to swerve, and sometimes doors would be opened into the lane. Getting around obstructions in the bike lanes made me feel uncomfortable because that usually required having to bike in a car lane or on the sidewalk. Also, I felt less noticeable as a cyclist in the bike lane with no barriers or colored pavement – I feel it would be very easy for drivers to not see that I’m there. That didn’t really matter much on this tour, since there were so many of us, but I’m not sure how confident I would feel biking alone.
I really enjoyed the Atlanta bike tour, but it left the question – if this is the best cycling infrastructure, what is the rest like? If I could use facilities like the Beltline to get everywhere I needed, I wouldn’t drive in Atlanta again. But unfortunately that isn’t the reality here. The good biking infrastructure doesn’t seem all that connected. Several times we had to stop riding our bikes and walk to get back into a bike lane. Not knowing where the infrastructure begins and ends discourages me from using my bike as a mode of transportation. With experienced Atlanta bikers in the lead, I was certain we would stay on decently safe infrastructure, but it’s not something I feel I could navigate well on my own.
In the Netherlands, that isn’t the case – the infrastructure there is designed to keep cyclists safe and encourages cycling as primary transportation. In the US it seems like bike facilities are added as an afterthought, especially in intersections. Some of the Dutch techniques to keep cyclists safe in intersections are using colored lanes, keeping cyclists to the right of traffic and not having them between cars turning right and cars going straight, and adding a protecting traffic island. These provisions keep bikes as separate from cars as possible and make them more visible from all points in the intersection.
The Dutch more heavily rely on biking as a means of transportation than in the United States, and their infrastructure reflects that. One of the videos showed the cycle track from the point of view of someone using it. All the safety features of that cycle track were awesome and made me realize how much the US is lacking. There was a track on each side of the street, meaning it was one way, there was a large barrier between it and the road, meaning no cars would be stopped in it and all the side streets that intersected it were clearly marked and cyclists were given the priority. It was incredible to see the volume of bikers during rush hour and that their facilities were able to safely manage them all. The Netherlands clearly caters to all comfort level cyclists and make it very easy to use bikes as your main form of transportation. I can’t wait to try it out for myself!