The first few days in the Netherlands have been eye opening. It was incredible to see the designs we read about and studied come to life on the road. Cycling in the Netherlands is part of the culture and an integral part of life. Its how the Dutch go to work, buy groceries, visit friends, pick up kids from school, etc. Without cycling, the country would look entirely different. The abundance of cycling and cycling infrastructure is directly correlated with the increased quality of life. There is little noise pollution, people are more active, street networks are dense with narrow roads that facilitate slow vehicles speeds, and (best of all) public spaces are filled with people socializing. Dutch towns are the perfect example of the relationship between our well being and the built environment.
For someone who is foreign to such great and abundant bike infrastructure, it was a little challenging to know exactly where to be on the road. The road markings are much more muted and inconspicuous; the red bike areas differ in color only slightly from the rest of the street (we have unknowingly migrated in the bike lane, much to the cyclists’ annoyance). Painted lane markings and signage are also seldom seen on Dutch streets, unlike most streets in the US. All throughout the city, traffic flows effortlessly and continuously, like the gears inside of a clock.
The most fascinating parts of the bike tour around Delft were the bicycle priority roundabouts and the advisory bike lanes. In both cases, cyclists are given priority over the car. These types of designs respect the cyclist by giving them time and space to move at their natural pace, and does not pressure them into moving the speed of motor vehicles. The vehicles must wait behind the cyclists before proceeding on their route. Bicyclists are also given priority in minor ways, too. At the train stations, bike garages provide thousands of free spaces for transit riders. Inside of the station, divots next to the stairs are provided for cyclists to more easily bring their bikes up to the train platform. These small amenities also show that cyclists are considered all throughout transportation design.