After my first few days in the Netherlands, cycling is obviously king around here. Bicycles rule the roads like cards do in the United States. One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed so far is how bicyclists just blow through intersections and crossings without any regard to the pedestrians or cars that are using them too. On one hand, this seems dangerous because they could cause a collision. On the other hand, it shows how comfortable people are biking. In the United States, being in a car makes you feel like you’re in a bubble where not much can hurt you. On a bike however, you’re in the “open air” and don’t have any metal structure that would protect you, which makes it even more amazing that the Dutch do not seem to care about their safety.
It's also very interesting to see a lot of the streets that are in the old parts of the cities. Most of the “right-of-way” is taken up by a canal, and then there are two small “lanes” on each side of the canal for cars and bikes. The cars are forced to crawl along at 5-10 mph while the pedestrians and bikes can travel relatively unimpeded. It’s fascinating how they are able to use such a small space for all different modes of transport.
It’s also interesting to see some of the intersections and roundabouts that have cycle tracks going through them. In some cases, cars actually yield to bicyclists, which is unheard of in the United States. This just reinforces the priority that the Dutch put on bicycling; they’re going to make it easiest for the bicycles to travel so more people use them. This is also seen in the amount of lanes that are dedicated to cars. On most roads that aren’t in the middle of the old city sections, there is also one vehicle travel lane in each direction. They must not expect there to be a high volume of cars, otherwise congestion would be terrible. Even the main highways that ran from city-to-city only had one lane in each direction. I thought it would be funny for the Dutch to come to the United States to see how we do vehicles, similar to how we are coming here to see how they do bicycles.
It seems like it would be difficult to pull off some of these design concepts in the United States. I’d love for it to happen, but it seems to require an established bike culture that isn’t afraid to bike through intersections. There’s also a safety in numbers that is prevalent here; because there are so many bicyclists, it makes it easier for vehicles to watch out for the riders. In the United States, seeing a bicyclist is rare, so the vehicles aren’t going to look for bicyclists as often. I think before such an established bike system can be built up, there needs to be an increase in the number of people that want to cycle.