Integration versus Separation
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.