It’s no secret that the Dutch have world-class bike infrastructure and a bike-centric culture, but I didn’t grasp the significance of the difference until spending a couple days here in the Netherlands. Biking is a lifestyle here, and is not only reflected in the infrastructure design, but also the attitudes of car drivers toward cyclists. In Atlanta, car drivers view themselves as superior and that bikers don’t belong in the road, while here in Holland it is almost the opposite. Drivers are quite respectful of bikers. In the biking that we have done in Delft over the past two days, it is actually surprising that the bike mode split is only 40%. We very infrequently interacted with vehicles, and I found it more daunting interacting with the shear volume of cyclists on some portions of our ride.
The Dutch prioritize separation of modes wherever possible, and when it isn’t possible they make it a bikes-first street where vehicles have to share the road. An example of this is shown in Figure 1, which looks like a two-way bike lane, but actually is also a two-way roadway for vehicles as well. Because the right-of-way is so narrow, there are no dedicated car lanes, just a small area on either side with room to maneuver. With parking available, we know that cars use this space. It would have been interesting to see them interact with the bike during a morning or afternoon rush hour.
Figure 1: Shared road where vehicles must yield to bicyclists
When bicyclists must interact with vehicles (at intersections), the Dutch work hard to make it as safe and continuous as possible for the riders. We biked through a couple roundabouts today that showed us just how much the United States could improve signalized intersection safety. The Dutch roundabouts (one of which is shown in Figure 2) take extra measure to ensure that vehicle drivers have no reason to be close to bicyclists. There are yield symbols both on poles and on the ground, a crossing refuge on all segments, and even an area for vehicles to wait out of the flow of the roundabout but without intruding on the bike right-of-way. It is no surprise that these types of design have seen an 80% reduction in crashes.
Figure 2: Typical Dutch roundabout showing yield arrows and vehicle waiting zone
Some of the heavy residential areas have very narrow roadways known as Woonerfs, where the roadway design dictates that cars stay around 6 miles per hour in speed. A typical Dutch Woonerf is shown in Figure 3. In contrast to the United States residential roads, where we usually see over 30-feet of right-of-way and large front yards and setbacks, the Dutch keep everything very dense and tightly packed, including things like on street parking and bulb outs. The homes are also right up on the street, contributing to the perception of vehicles that they need to drive slower.
Figure 3: Dutch Woonerf
The United States could learn a lot of lessons from the Dutch planners and designers about increasing utilitarian bicycling through design, but like Becky Katz said this morning, it’s not about the grand vision as much as it is about incremental progress toward improvement. The United States transforming bike culture through infrastructure design is the elephant, and we all know how to best eat an elephant…one bite at a time!
Cycling through the streets in Delft today, the word that kept coming to my mind was flexibility. These streets are versatile; they lend themselves to whoever needs it. This is especially true in the Woonerf and the streets with advisory bike lanes. Though built with pedestrians and cyclists as a priority, cars can pass through as well, making it friendly to multiple modes of transportation. I was amazed by how one street could be home to so many ways of life.
A Woonerf Street
Additionally, I was struck with how generous people were with space. Cars waited for cyclists and adjusted to them. Even with such a large group of Americans unfamiliar with the signals and signs, making mistakes and taking up a lot of space, people were friendly and patient. In America, it often feels as if drivers assume the worst of one another and are quick to anger when someone gets in their way. This attitude often includes cyclists who are sometimes seen as unwanted and pesky obstacles in the road. Cycling in America, I feel bad for slowing down traffic behind me and try to move as close to the curb as possible to allow cars to pass me. I feel as if I don’t belong and biking in a shared road often not only stresses me out but also surrounding traffic. I did not experience this at all biking through the Netherlands, except when the stress returned instinctively. This occurred, for example, at the roundabouts where every time I was initially stressed about going in front of the car and then surprised when it did not keep going to run me over (I often feel as if I’m playing chicken with cars in Atlanta).
A Friendly Reminder
Besides the very noticeable differences in infrastructure, the sheer number of cyclists on the road was also very striking to me. I’ve never biked around so many other bikes before, let alone seen so many bikers out on the roads. People from all walks of life were using the bike paths, from children to elderly, teens to working adults. The infrastructure, designed to make biking as easy possible, allows for people to go through their daily lives by bicycle without much additional effort. In fact, in some situations, it is easier, such as going through no-car zones or very low-speed streets. It is clear that biking is a legitimized form of transportation, one that residents take for granted as a safe, easy, and reliable way to get around on a day-to-day basis.
I do feel I have to add my short experience biking on my own. Lacking knowledge of the city layout and any sense of direction, I quickly found myself biking in the wrong direction trying to get back to the hotel from the train station. Once I realized I was on the wrong side of the canal, I had a difficult time crossing it. I saw pedestrian sidewalks and crossings that would have taken me where I knew I needed to go but I didn’t feel comfortable breaking the separation rules (I didn’t want to go where I wasn’t allowed when there was perfectly good infrastructure in place). I knew there was a procedure to follow but wasn’t at the point where I could recognize the signals/correct route to take. I ended up biking straight for a while before figuring out how to cross over, and even then, I was unsure of where I was supposed to be when there wasn’t a clearly defined bike path. I was glad I took the opportunity to find my own way because it showed me how much I had relied on following the group and that it wasn’t quite as simple when navigating yourself, at least until there’s a stronger understanding of the city and its available biking infrastructure.
We have been in the Netherlands for about two and a half days now, and it is amazing to see how much cycling is prioritized and utilized by the Dutch people. This is especially evident in Delft, the town that we are calling home base for the next week.
Figure 1: Delft Town Square, our Home Base
The Dutch Design
Riding around the city of Delft, it is immediately apparent that every single street has been approached from a cyclist’s perspective; this varies greatly depending on the location. One popular feature is a cycle track, which works especially well in high density traffic areas with higher speeds. The complete separation of bike and roadway users allows each to maintain comfortable speed with a minimum number of interactions with each other; while useful, these tracks require a fair amount of space.
Figure 2: 2-Way Cycle Track
Design of roundabouts is especially interesting. Figure 3 shows the roundabout seen at Westlandseweg and Zaagmolen, a heavily used intersection especially for work commutes. While the vehicle section is single lane, the cycle track around it goes in both directions, which allows for less constricted bike flow. Additionally, cars must wait to cross the outer loop to exit the roundabout, giving bikes and pedestrians the right of way.
Figure 3: Roundabout at Westlandseweg and Zaagmolen
Although cycle tracks and dedicated bike lanes are ideal, they aren't always practical, especially in areas with narrow roadways and previously built-up infrastructure. The Dutch solution is the use of advisory bike lanes, which offer protection through the traffic calming as slowing of vehicles. As seen in Figure 4, bike lanes are added to an already in place roadway, and it is up to the vehicle used to give priority to the cyclist. This is especially effective in this culture, due to their understanding of biking habits.
Figure 4: Advisory Bike Lanes in Delft Neighborhood
One example of cyclist priorities can be seen at many driveways and small side street intersections. The bike path is raised above the roadway on the curb level, so in order to cross the bike lane, a roadway user must meet the biker at their level. This simultaneously lets the biker know they are in control and the car to wait for the biker to pass.
Figure 5: Height Difference in Roadway and Cycle Track
The heavy use of yielding also works great in understanding priorities. The most common method to show yielding is through the sharktoothed arrows shown below in Figure 6. This lets the user know that the crossing street has priority, and are especially common at roundabouts. Biking through downtown Delft, these were especially useful in understanding bike-on-bike intersections, where a smaller bike lane intersects or joins into a larger biking arterial.
Figure 6: Yield Arrows at Major Intersection
The most innovative solution is Woonerfs, streets that go beyond just accommodation to cyclists by creating more public and family friendly communities. This is achieved by making the cars do the work - winding streets and extremely low speed limits force the use of cars only when absolutely necessary.
Figure 7: Woonerf near Delft Train Station
The Dutch Culture in Delft
Cycling is perceived so differently in the Dutch culture. Instead of being a niche or a hobby, it is a part of the daily lives of all people, young and old. We have seen college students biking to class, parents biking with their children to the grocery store, and business people biking to work. In the Netherlands, cycling is the norm, and it has become this way because of the heavy focus placed on adaptive infrastructure.
The differences between cycling in the Netherlands versus the U.S. were clear immediately when we arrived in Delft. Even on the train from Amsterdam, the rural roads we passed all had bike infrastructure, whereas rural bike infrastructure in America is difficult to find. Dutch engineers and planners account for cyclists and pedestrians on every route. Cycling around Delft and to Maeslantering was a bit nerve-wracking at times, but only because I was new to the system and did not have a firm handle on traffic laws. Dutch cyclists all seem to be on the same page when it comes to yielding, intersections, and passing. American cyclists, even with experience, must often stop and read situations before proceeding. After two days, I have a better understanding of where I should be as a cyclist versus as a pedestrian, who I need to yield to and who will yield to me, and how to interact with other travelers. Even at the beginning when I was confused, I still felt safer than I did cycling around Atlanta. Cars generally travel at low speeds, and when they go fast, they are separated from cyclists and pedestrians. If I had been in an accident, I firmly believe that my injuries would be minor or nonexistent.
Dutch Cycling Design Differences
The Dutch system of cycling infrastructure is a bit overwhelming and does not feel entirely feasible for Atlanta and many other American cities, but there are many concepts that could be applied. I particularly liked the raised crossings on two-way cycle tracks and the “woonerf” neighborhood streets. The crossing table seemed like a simple solution for the visibility of cyclists at small intersections.
Figure 1: Diagram of Crossing Table
Source: Xu, L. (n.d.). Cycle Tracks [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.northeastern.edu/holland2016sustrans/hw4-delft-bicycling-facilities/leina-xu/
As shown in the diagram, the crossing table allows cyclists and pedestrians to continue easily at the same elevation, while cars are forced to slow down to get over the bump. This is a simple way to slow down motor traffic and give drivers more time to notice cyclists and pedestrians. The “Woonerf” was a delightful way to allow cyclists and cars to interact with people using the street for recreation. Cars go at the same speed as pedestrians, so there is a very low risk of collisions. Alternating sides for street parking and tree planting naturally enforces speed limits. I think this could be an ideal solution for Harden street in Atlanta, due to its low car traffic, family housing, and proximity to high traffic bike routes.
Figure 2: Sign showing the end of the Woonerf
Perception and Priority for Cyclists
Dutch drivers expect to interact with cyclists on the roads, and so they look for them at intersections and are always prepared to yield when they should. Arrows point towards the traveler who is supposed to yield, and so the responsibility is shared by different modes at different intersections. Many crossings give priority to cyclists, which is a very rare occurrence in the U.S. I can honestly say that as a confused American cyclist over the past two days, I have annoyed more Dutch cyclists than Dutch drivers. Cyclists seem to own the roads in the Netherlands, and drivers understand that they must go slow, watch their surroundings, and give priority to more vulnerable travelers.
Figure 3: Four-Way Intersection with Arrows for Yielding
After cycling around Delft and the countryside, my initial assessment is that cycling as a mode of transportation is a baseline assumption for engineers and planners here in the Netherlands. As a result, cycling facilities are a given, not just a privilege, as they seem to be in the U.S. It seems as though no matter what direction you are traveling, there will always be a cycling facility available. Sure, the major roadways may not have any provisions for cyclists, but there is likely a smaller road that runs parallel to the major roadway that will have something for cyclists.
Dutch Perception of Cycling
Engineers and planners take into account bicycling for every project because the Dutch use their bikes for all types of trips. In the U.S., cycling is mainly for recreation, with a small amount of utilitarian cycling. But in the Netherlands, bikes are used to get to work, go to the store, go out for social activities, and most everything else! While we did see some lycra-clad bicyclists out for a Sunday morning training ride, the majority of people we’ve seen on bikes have been dressed in normal clothing and riding around town, sometimes balancing large objects or carrying bags, going about business as usual.
Figure 1: Two Dutch cyclists in normal attire going on a casual ride.
The prevalence of cycling for all types of trips means that it is necessary to have bike infrastructure available for every possible direction of travel. Cycling is perceived as an integral part of the overall transportation system of the country, and therefore it is supported by adequate infrastructure.
Comparison to Design in the U.S.
One thing that really struck me was the importance of locating any cycling facilities on streets that cyclists want to use. In the U.S., you can find an unprotected bike lane on a road with a 40 mph speed limit or with 3 lanes next to it. In the Netherlands, this wouldn’t even be considered. And it makes sense, because no one except for a few extremely confident cyclists would want to ride on or cross a busy roadway. Dr. Watkins made an interesting point on our ride today: she said that when designing for bicycles, the Dutch treat busy roadways like the extremely common canals throughout country—they will build bridges over or tunnels under them, because they view the busy roadway as an impassible obstruction for cyclists.
Figure 2: A tunnel allows bicyclists to travel under the busy Prinses Beatrixlaan roadway in Delft.
Cyclists in the Netherlands are prioritized through both roadway design and traffic control devices. On higher-volume roadways, cyclists are prioritized through complete separation from the vehicular lanes.
Figure 3: A separated two-way cycle track.
On roadways with both bikes and vehicles, the red pavement markings signal to drivers where bikes are allowed. On some low-speed, low-traffic streets, the whole roadway will have red pavement, signaling to drivers that cyclists have the priority on the roadway. These roadways will only be wide enough for around 1 car at a time; this geometry shows drivers they need to cede to bicycles. This is the case with Woonerfs, where the speed limit is 6 mph, and bicyclists and pedestrians have the priority.
Figure 4: Bike lanes take up most of this roadway--any cars must yield to bikes.
Figure 5: A Woonerf
At locations where vehicles intersect bicycles, triangular pavement markings and signage tell vehicles to yield to any present cyclists. Additionally, at many of these intersections the bicycle path will be elevated, creating a sort of speed table that both signals drivers to yield to bikes and helps physically slow down the vehicle.
Figure 6: A raised crossing for bicycles
Overall, the Dutch do a fantastic job of prioritizing cycling to ensure that all users are safe!
This past Friday we took a 9-hour flight to Amsterdam, hopped on a couple of trains, and arrived at our first destination: Delft. Since arriving, we’ve been biking our way through the town squares, exploring popular local sites, and of course, eating stroopwafel. For this post, I’ll discuss my first couple of days abroad in Delft, and share insight into the differences between cyclist infrastructure and culture in the US versus the Netherlands.
Different country, different design mindset
I could explain how the design differs between the US and the Netherlands, or I could just show you. Below is a series of pictures that show some elements of Dutch cycling infrastructure. You will quickly see that it is hard to compare the two countries because, like the age-old phrase, it’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Typical bicycle lanes on a narrow, residential street.
There are a couple things to point out in this picture. First, the cycle lanes are red – not green – like they are in the US. The red is not paint, however, it is a naturally-occurring shade of aggregate that is common in the Netherlands. Since it's aggregate, it doesn’t fade or chip due to weather or age. Secondly, this is a fairly typical width for a two-way street in the Netherlands. Cars are forced to slow down in this environment, creating a safer roadway climate for cyclists. In the US, however, we typically prioritize vehicles. While this may be important on some roadways, there is no reason a car should be speeding through a residential area.
A protected pedestrian and cyclist crossing at a busy, high-capacity intersection
Pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles all have their own space. In the US, it is rare to have so much space for all three modes of transportation. It is even more rare to have dedicated signals for each mode.
Bike parking at Delft’s central transit station
Plentiful bike parking in and around Delft is a must. The parking facility shown above has approximately 5000 spaces (and it’s still not enough!). The facility is well-lit, clean, and secure from the elements. This parking is located just steps from the train platform, making it easier than ever to store your bike for longer trips. In the US, you may find a couple of bike racks outside of a transit station, but you probably can’t enter the facility at full speed like you can in Delft, and you may feel slightly nervous about the security of your bike.
How cyclists are prioritized
In the Netherlands, the hierarchy of cars, cyclists and pedestrians is a bit different. Although I’ve only been here two days, below is what I’ve gathered about said hierarchy:
Most important: Cyclists. Cyclists rule the roadways. When circling through a roundabout today, I encountered an incredible thing.. the cars actually stopped for me. They did not honk, they did not roll down their window and yell, they simply waited. Also, most streets are narrow. This signals to vehicles that they are the guests, giving the cyclists higher priority
Pretty important: Pedestrians. The biggest surprise is that cyclists are even prioritized over pedestrians in most cases. Like the roadways, sidewalks are also narrow, and if you are a pedestrian, you better be aware of your surroundings. It took but a few near misses to start looking both ways before crossing over any red pavement, and to step aside immediately if you hear a bike bell.
Least important: Vehicles. It’s not that vehicles aren’t important, but cyclists and pedestrians are more important. Many households still own a car (just one, though) to make longer trips. Drivers seem to understand that cyclists have the right of way, and that they are no more entitled to roadway space than anyone else.
The Dutch cycling culture
Many of us think of biking as something we did when we were little to get to school or perhaps a friend’s house. Yet as we turn 16, it is commonplace to purchase a car and ditch the bike. In the Netherlands, biking is a utilitarian activity. Instead of hopping in a car and driving down the street to pick up a loaf of bread from the store, the Dutch opt for their bike. As stated above, driving can be a pain because of the narrow streets and abundant bike traffic – so why not bike instead? Furthermore, cycling is common transportation mode for all members of the population, including women, children, and seniors. Safe and thoroughly connected infrastructure has changed the culture in the Netherlands from car-centric to bike/transit/pedestrian-centric, increasing access and mobility for all age groups.
That’s all for now. Check back in a couple of days for even more updates and insights into my trip!
Bikes, bikes and more bikes! There are so many bikes all over the city of Delft that become part of the city scenery. I’ve seen several mixed-use streets that vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians share in Delft city center. One is featured below where you can see a man on a skateboard, an elderly woman cycling, and two teenagers cycling alongside each other on the roadway, with an elevated sidewalk for pedestrians.
Figure 1: A Mixed-use Street in Delft City Center
The cycle track our group took to Delta Works (a movable storm surge barrier) is featured below and was my absolute favorite place to bike because of the environment. The track was completely separated from other traffic, the land is flat and a beautiful green color with bright blue skies. Biking is enjoyable in good weather and social! On either side of our group in the figure below are greenhouses. The Dutch have mastered the optimal growing conditions for flowers and extended their knowledge to produce they export to other European countries.
Figure 2: Optimal Conditions for Cycling in the Netherlands
Not so optimal is the shared roadways where I have to be cognizant of other users because the space is highly trafficked and narrow. I honestly felt worn out the first day because I had to be vigilant on the road, constantly on the lookout for other people. When I bike in Atlanta, I am usually the only one in the bike lane and it is very easy to focus on my route in my own space. It is a very different feel biking in the Netherlands where I interact with many users on the roadway. One intersection on the first day was especially active. It appeared to be a four-way intersection except no one had the right of way. I felt extremely hesitant because I did not want to end up timing my turn at the same moment as a vehicle. There were no yield markings or stop signs for any direction. I was reassured as cars were traveling at low speeds, but I felt much more involved on the roadway than in my bike lane in Atlanta (when bike lanes are available).
One thing I really enjoy is the speed of cycling in the Dutch culture. Bike infrastructure makes it easy to be social, such as being able to ride alongside another cyclist. In Atlanta, I bike quickly as I try to keep up with car traffic. Cars behind me are waiting for me to go before they can set off at intersections and are waiting to pass me on straight roadways when they have a chance. I did not feel this type of pressure at all while cycling in Delft because cyclists are prioritized and when on roadways with vehicles, vehicles are moving at much lower speeds.
Traffic signals were mostly separate and timed differently for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorized vehicles which is not only safer but gave priority to cyclists. One traffic signal below shows how user-friendly transportation infrastructure is for all age groups.
Figure 3: Pedestrian Traffic Signal
Traffic signals are seemingly intuitive in the US with no directions for users. Images like above support children and possibly foreigners to use roadways independently. Additionally, bike networks extend the entirety of Delft that allow elderly people access to the transport system on bikes and using motorized chairs. Elderly people are depended on driving which is independence lost with impairments. The Dutch consider all age levels in street design for accessibility and so people can interact with each other in the community.
I'm looking forward to exploring other Dutch cities that will almost definitely include experiencing front line bike infrastructure.
Upon arriving to the Netherlands and retrieving our bicycles, it quickly became clear how prevalent cycling is in Delft. However, on our first day of real biking, I was surprised by how difficult biking was. In Atlanta, biking is difficult because of a lack of infrastructure and awareness, and the resulting lack of safety. On the way to Maeslantkering, the sights were beautiful, the infrastructure varied in design but was consistent in that it provided a safe spot for bikes, but the wind was brutal. This made it tough to adopt the Dutch mindset that cycling is always a viable option for realistic distances. Passing through tunnels and riding primarily on cycle tracks and paths dedicated to biking in the countryside, your next move as a cyclist was never a serious thought. This sentiment continued throughout the next day, and I expect it to continue throughout the week. This is a new feeling for me: not having to question if your security as a cyclist is going to suddenly disappear and you’re going to be stuck on a freeway.
Dutch Design & Pavement Priorities
Monday focused on Delft cycling infrastructure and different types of pavement and road design. We saw roundabouts that gave cyclists the right-of-way, advisory lanes, bike lanes and cycle tracks, all pictured below in the respective order.
Figure 1. Roundabout featuring 2-way cycle track
Figure 2. Advisory lane
Figure 3. Bike lanes sharing the road with cars
Figure 4. Separated 2-way cycle tracks
The main feature that I believe contributes to the cyclist culture is the slow vehicular speeds. There were plenty of roads where cars came uncomfortably (by Atlanta standards) close to me, but I was not afraid because they were driving cautiously. While cyclists are prioritized in that they are given the right-of-way at an uncontrolled intersection with vehicles, I would not say bikes are always the top dog. Plenty of times during the bike rides we had to unexpectedly brake for pedestrians. Equally as often, we would not be given much time to pass through the intersections, as the bike signal seemed to pass very quickly. I can see a proud American cyclist becoming frustrated with the inability to travel right alongside vehicles rather than opposing them at certain intersections with the 2-part turns. This type of design can be seen in the following figure.
Figure 5. Intersection with 2-part turns
Especially in Delft, cycling is seen as second nature. All types of people bike on all types of bikes. We’ve seen older women biking with dogs in their front baskets, two young girls biking separately while holding hands, young men biking with no hands, and plenty of people biking with flowers in hand. My main takeaway from these last few days is that while cycling here seems so easy, our group is definitely not apt yet. While we understand and appreciate the seamless transitions from advisory lane to cycle track, we lack the awareness the Dutch have that is so crucial to their successful commutes. At intersections, locals seem to have a second sense about who goes first if both bikers arrive simultaneously, and what to do in the case that a pedestrian, cyclist, and car all arrive together. I hope that throughout the rest of the trip we improve in our awareness and can begin to really bike Dutch style.
After two days in the program, I’ve noticed that dedicated bike infrastructure is more prevalent in the Netherlands. It feels as if the entire town of Delft has a connected bike network that is widely used and people of all ages cycle. Paths are shared with both pedestrians and vehicles at times without much conflict or stress. In my experiences so far, traveling by bicycle has been pleasant, effective, and safe in Delft.
Difference in Design
The Dutch approach to cycling infrastructure is more cognizant of the safety of cyclists. Separation from motor vehicles is present where possible, and road sharing only occurs on low traffic and slow-moving streets. Traffic calming measures are taken in neighborhoods so that cars are forced to travel slowly and check their surroundings. Cyclists also move through signalized intersections on their own. In the United States, bikes often lack separation from cars and travel alongside fast-moving roads. Traffic calming measures are rare and cyclists are forced to travel through signalized intersections alongside turning cars. These differences in design are reason for the safe-nature of Dutch cycling compared to that of the United States. Figure 1 below shows a cycle track that is incorporated into a roundabout with priority over vehicles.
Figure 1: Roundabout in Delft
In most scenarios, cyclists are the priority. Dedicated two-way paths ensure that cyclists can travel among other bikes at realistic speeds, and road sharing only occurs where vehicles are required to travel slowly. Figure 2 below shows a shared road with a speed limit of ten kilometers per hour. The geometry of this traffic-calmed street also forces vehicles to abide by the speed limit.
Figure 2: Traffic-calmed shared neighborhood road in Delft
When there isn’t enough space for a two-way road and separated cycle track, advisory roads exist. These roads are shared by both vehicles and bikes, but the painting of the roads prioritize cyclists. When vehicles need to pass, they can enter unused cycle lanes to do so. Even pedestrians give priority to bikes, making their use more effective. Figure 3 below shows a very thin advisory road.
Figure 3: Dutch advisory road
Traveling by bicycle is the norm in the Netherlands. People of all ages, genders, and classes cycle. Pedestrians look for cyclists when crossing dedicated paths, and think nothing of navigating around cyclists. And when both modes share a space, cars are willing to drive slowly until an opportunity arises to pass (advisory lanes, shared lanes, low traffic and slow roads).
Bike shops are prevalent, and bike parking facilities are widely used. And in the Netherlands, developing a complete cycling network is treated as a legitimate priority benefiting the whole of society, and not just a way to quell an interest group’s call to action. This positive outlook on the development of cycling infrastructure creates a feedback loop in favor of more cycling.
Well, unsurprisingly, cycling is great. First of all, the contour of the Netherlands is incredibly flat. It’s so flat, in fact, that the steepest hill we have yet to hit is right before going over a bridge. The piedmont has really cursed Atlanta in the hill department. Second, I have felt extremely safe, for a number of reasons that I’ll discuss in the following sections. Overall, throughout Holland, bikers are much more respected, and the Dutch actually put an emphasis on those who are the most vulnerable, which is refreshing. Lastly, I have had so much fun! Our ride through the Dutch countryside yesterday was wonderful, and exploring the intricacies of Delft today was eye-opening. I’ve loved getting to experience the beautiful landscape, staring at the pristine architecture, and feeling the sun on my face (even with the freezing wind!).
Figure 1: The gang on our way to tour the giant storm surge protection system. Check out those wind turbines!
How's the design?
As we have been learning for the whole semester, the Dutch really nail it with design, inside and out. In terms of the bike lanes themselves, there are a few examples that come to mind that we’ve been constantly observing. One is simply separation. Bike lanes are, for the most part, a few feet away from where traffic is coming. If the lanes are in the road with cars passing, as they almost always are back in the States, then the cars go very slow, and often yield to ensure the safety of the cyclists. Intersections are another physical triumph for bikers in the Netherlands. Some intersections are protected, meaning bikers and pedestrians can safely cross to get to any direction, and they’re guaranteed to be protected by some curb or other physical buffer to the oncoming traffic. Other intersections use roundabouts to deposit cars into different arterial roads. At this kind of intersection, cyclists essentially have free reign. As a group, we circled around a roundabout and every single motorist automatically yielded to us. What’s best about the roundabouts is that they even have small cutouts where cars can wait for cyclists without blocking the other traffic from continuing around. Check out the picture for an example!
Figure 2: An example of a roundabout in the Netherlands. Hey Jenna!
Aside from the lanes themselves, great design is also on display at the Delft train station. It has a parking lot with over 500 spots for bikes! Check out the picture below to get lost in the bike maze like I did. That kind of infrastructure allows people to make long trips using transit and bike, rather than taking a car all that way. Another example in great design you might not expect? Their traffic signaling! I’ve noticed that the traffic signals are much more intricate than those in the US, and they’re much more efficient! They’re quicker, and they have different ones for bikes and cars. It helps to keep bikers safe while also keeping traffic moving at a reasonable rate.
Figure 3: Look at all those bikes! Believe it or not, it was actually a little difficult to find a parking space.
How's the culture?
Anyone with at least one functioning eyeball can tell that cycling is a pivotal part of Dutch culture. The Dutch love their cycling, and they know that the safer and more abundant cycling infrastructure is, the more it will be used. It’s evident that biking shapes how Dutch people live: bikes scatter the streets; pedestrians and motorists never fail to look for cyclists to make sure the coast is clear; there are places to park bikes outside of every commercial building; there are bike lanes everywhere; the list goes on and on. They really get the whole sustainable transport thing. But, even overall, I think the Dutch really see the benefits of good civil engineering (maybe I’m biased?). They have an abundance of windmills and solar panels; the government invests in large-scale civil projects to benefit the people; public transit is a fantastic option to get around; and so much more. This group of CE dorks is definitely enjoying it, and you can bet I’m nerding out along with them.