By Spencer Maddox 6/1/17
The Netherlands bike infrastructure makes the United States look like it's in Dark Ages for cycling. In every aspect, the Netherlands crushes the United States's cycling infrastructure. Whether it be in amount of dedicated cycle infrastructure, parking, public transportation, and fewer accidents and fatalities. Differences in culture and transportation design cause the disparity between the US and the Netherlands.
The main design difference between the US and Netherlands is how cyclists are divided or integrated within the traffic stream. In the Netherlands and most of Europe, cyclists, for the most part, are separated through protected bike lanes or cycle tracks. Providing a dedicated lane removes the cyclists from the traffic stream and reduces the risks of accidents. It also reduces stress of the cyclists since they have their own dedicated path. I am excited to see this first hand in the Netherlands the next couple weeks.
In the United States, the design and policy is the opposite of the Netherlands. Bikes are asked to be on the same lane through sharrows or separated with unprotected bike lanes. While this policy does not affect the fearless cyclists, it drives the younger and older cyclists off the road altogether. Recently, there's been a greater push towards separated facilities in the United States, but it will take time to get the user base to grow. A good example of success with separated infrastructure is Portland.
Cultural differences also help aid the Netherlands possess a large amount of cyclists. Many children have bikes by 4 and classes are taught to teach children how to bike and be comfortable biking. Policies also encourage cycling such as higher gas and car taxes than the United States.
The effect of all these design, cultural, and policy differences is a stark contrast in bike infrastructure between the Netherlands and the United States. While all hope is not lost for the US, we need to continue improving bike infrastructure and policies that encourage cycling.
On a completely different note, I cannot believe the trip leaves tomorrow. It came by so quickly. Although we've only had 3 classes, I feel like I've already learned a lot about the Dutch bike infrastructure. I cannot wait to experience first hand myself. Here's my last blog post from stateside. To paraphrase Ron Burgundy, Stay Classy America, I'll see you again in 2 weeks.