Hello, world! I'm a 5th year Civil Engineering student at Georgia Tech and in 3 weeks I'll have the amazing opportunity to travel to the Netherlands to study their cycling infrastructure system. To preface this blog, I'll talk a little about where I'm from and my previous experiences with transportation.
I moved around a lot when I was a kid, but a majority of my childhood memories were formed in the city of Evans, Georgia which is located about 10 minutes west of Augusta, Georgia. I usually just tell people I'm from Augusta as most people have heard of The Masters Golf Tournament that takes place there. I would say Evans is your typical suburban area, though. Lots of sprawling neighborhoods, an occasional strip-mall, and transportation infrastructure geared predominantly towards automobiles. Right now, I can't think of a single street in Evans that has a designated bike lane and there is no established bus system, either. Hence, the only feasible and efficient method of transportation within Evans is driving a car. Because of this, I never really gave much thought to any other form of transportation when I was growing up.
Back in the Spring of 2014, I had the opportunity to spend a semester studying at Georgia Tech's European campus located in Lorraine, France. My time spent there was very formative in many ways: one of those being my perspective on transportation. During my four months at GT Lorraine, I traveled to and experienced more places than I ever had before, all without the use of a personal automobile. This was facilitated by Europe's incredible transportation infrastructure which includes: a highly developed system of high-speed trains, plentiful public transportation within cities, and affordable airline prices. One of my most memorable experiences in Europe was my trip to Amsterdam. Upon arriving there, my buddies and I immediately rented bicycles and began to explore the city. I fell in love with the city, partly because of its innate charm and beautiful architecture, and partly because of how the city facilitated cyclists. Not once did I ever feel uneasy while biking through Amsterdam like I often do when biking through Atlanta. Coming back to the States after my trip, I fantasized about what it would be like if the US had an equivalent transportation system to Europe. How incredible would it be to hop on a high-speed train and spend the weekend in Chicago or Miami! Imagine how much larger the cycling community in Atlanta would be if almost every street had a bike lane.
I have a few notable goals for this course. The first is to experience the Dutch culture in a way that I've never done before. From the little experience I do have with the culture, I find it to be very genuine. The people there value different things than Americans, like sustainability rather than efficiency, or quality rather than quantity. Second, I'd like to gain a better understanding for what it would take to begin to alter the transportation system of the US to emulate that of other more sustainable systems. This transformation will require a huge change in the hearts of policy makers and citizens alike, but it is necessary if the US hopes to establish a sustainable transportation system.