By Spencer Maddox
The past two weeks in the Netherlands were amazing. Learning about the transportation infrastructure from the different officials was an unforgettable experience. Seeing the process from design to implementation fascinated me. When it comes to public transportation infrastructure and design, the Netherlands makes the United States look like we’re still in the Dark Ages.
The first crucial difference with Dutch design is the urban growth boundaries. The Dutch ensure their cities do not sprawl outward like Atlanta does. The urban growth boundaries allow for the cities to remain dense which makes public transportation economically feasible and encourages biking.
The cycling infrastructure is also much safer and comfortable than the US. I haven’t yet ridden my bike in the US again yet, but I know I will be incredibly more stressed. Separating cyclist infrastructure encourages cycling since its both safe and reliable. In the Netherlands, cyclists never must travel as a car. The most common infrastructure is to ride on is protected cycle tracks. The Dutch always consider how quick cyclists can traverse from one area to another.
To ensure speed of travel, the Dutch commonly build bridges or underpasses. These alternate routes either reroute cyclists to safer routes or leave cyclists at ground level and reroute cars and trams. The Dutch use this solution for dangerous crossings for cyclists.
These underpasses and bridges usually cost enormous amounts of money. For the Dutch, however, cost is not a limiting factor for design. In their minds building infrastructure that help promotes more sustainable means of travel will benefit everyone. Sustainable transport will improve air quality and lower carbon emissions. For a country that is at sea level, combating climate change is a must.
Overall the combination of their culture and design creates a positive feedback loop. The cyclist friendly culture promotes cyclist friendly design which in turn promotes cyclist culture. In the United States, a large cyclist culture is unlikely to appear with the current design. Therefore, promoting public transportation and cyclist design like the Dutch will allow cyclist culture to thrive. After the infrastructure exists, the positive feedback loop between design and culture can begin. After my two weeks in the Netherlands, I am cautiously optimistic how the United States can incorporate Dutch design.
Thank you, Dr. Watkins and Georgia Tech, for an amazing trip I’ll never forget!!!!