Two weeks ago we left for the Netherlands. Little did I know it would be such an eye-opening experience interacting with their transportation systems and infrastructure. The fundamental difference that makes Dutch transportation infrastructure so amazing and so much better than Atlanta’s is that they design for more than just vehicles. They design for each mode so well that some intersections are completely traffic signal-less! The Dutch share roads, not lanes. Sharrows, America’s easy and quick after-thought fix to accommodating bicycles on a road designed for vehicles is unheard of in the Netherlands. Bicycles are given priority when space restrictions limit the design from completely separating bicycles and vehicles. Every mode of transportation from walking to biking to light rail to vehicles all have their own opportunity to cross at intersections.
Dutch culture is not possible without their innovative design and their innovative design would not be possible without their forward thinking and community growth focused culture. Their mission to prioritize safety and sustainability from water to energy to transportation is remarkable. Their culture is highly motivated by problem solving and are quick to put their actions where their words are. When the disastrous storms flooded the Netherlands in 1953 they vowed to never let something like that happen again and created a water control system that keeps a country 50% below sea level without flooding and with the highest water safety levels of any other country in the world. When they witnessed the number of dangerous and deadly incidents with vehicles increasing they changed how they fundamentally used transportation. It seems like every month a new social or environmental tragedy hits America but we do not ever have such a forward and change driven reaction.
Returning to Atlanta made our trip to the Netherlands seem all the more like a dream. But it has motivated me with a vision of the sustainable and multimodal utopia Atlanta and cities all across the States could be! I want to take this opportunity to thank the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Dr. Watkins in particular for making this course and trip possible. The friends I made and everyone I had the opportunity to learn from made this an adventure I will remember for not only the rest of my transportation career but my life!
PS. I’d also like to share a video of the trip I made but I wasn’t sure how to embed it in the blog post. For now here’s a link to it on my Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bgy-GQPgehR/?taken-by=michelleshenriques