Before I dive into the bike infrastructure and design jazz, I want to say thank you to Georgia Tech, Dr. Watkins, Dave, April, and the Mundy Family for giving us the opportunity to travel to the Netherlands. Our week was absolutely amazing and I know that the things I learned on the trip will be extremely helpful in my career going forward.
There are hundreds of little details that I could go into about how Dutch infrastructure design but as my final thought I want to focus in on how Dutch design is rooted in a logical decision to support a strong multimodal system. The bike infrastructure design itself always gets a ton of attention but I think that the Dutch also make lots of other decisions about infrastructure for other modes that compound the usefulness of their bike infrastructure. The Dutch are extremely good at using context-sensitive design, meaning the infrastructure is designed with the context of the conditions around where the infrastructure is being placed. Using this design methodology, the Dutch have developed a network of bike infrastructure that is useful for short and medium distance trips, as well as, transit and automobile networks that is useful for longer distance trips. The layers of the different networks are intertwined and create a system that gives a priority to the mode that is most useful for a trip of particular distance. For example, within the city centers we visited, bike and pedestrian infrastructure was dominant,but when riding across the Green Heart, the auto infrastructure was dominant. It is important to note that while the infrastructure types are dominant, they are not the only choices, you can still drive a car in central Amsterdam or ride a bike in rural areas. I think that really shows the Dutch mindset of providing true modal choice, and therefore high levels of mobility, across their entire country.
The focus on a multimodal system is rooted in the Dutch culture of placing value in the environment, a healthy lifestyle, and providing mobility for all. The system that they have built performs extremely well in providing environmental, health, and mobility equity benefits. The relationship between the Dutch culture (which there is much more to than environment, health, and mobility but for the sake of space that is what I am focusing on) and their infrastructure system is very logical and creates a positive feedback system. The designs they have implemented have created benefits, in both measurable and unmeasurable ways, for the things that the Dutch value in their culture. Because it is possible to see the positive benefits, the Dutch culture is reinforced and more infrastructure is built.
The main difference in the Dutch manner of design and the American manner of design is that the Dutch consider all modes and contexts, while the United States considers primarily one thing: automobile speed. The classic American method of designing infrastructure for the past 50-60 years has been all about achieving the highest vehicle speed possible, and with the automobile being the primary vehicle in the States, achieving the highest automobile speed possible. This is not to say that things are changing, we are more now than ever starting to consider multimodality in our designs but unfortunately many states and cities still use the term mainly as a tokenism. The idea of multimodality is where I think that this trip has been the most beneficial to me. Being able to see a truly multimodal system in action is inspiring and has helped me learn about the many benefits that we are missing out on in the US. Going forward I hope to help bring more multimodal thinking to design here the United States and I hope that my classmates will do the same!