By Annie Blissit, June 5, 2017
Some moments I can’t believe it’s already been over two days and others I feel like we’ve been here forever. After arriving in Amsterdam, we boarded the train to Delft in the station seamlessly connected to the airport. Upon arriving, we had some free time to check out the city before picking up our bikes. Picking out our bicycles made me feel even shorter than usual. The Dutch are statistically the tallest people in the world so the fit of the uprights is a bit different than back home. I was just glad to get one with hand brakes and a couple of gears.
Our first full day in the Netherlands, we took on the adventure of inter-city biking. Winding through Delft, we used a cycle track to continue on to Rotterdam. While the infrastructure changed once or twice to accommodate cars through small towns, we remained on this straight-shot track all the way to Rotterdam. Rotterdam, famous for being the largest port in Europe, is the Netherlands’ second largest city and much larger than Delft. It was in Rotterdam that we experienced our first large protected intersection as well as many more forms of cycling infrastructure. A notable contrast to the US, we were able to make our journey with relatively little interaction with cars except in the city centers.
Today, our second full day, included morning discussions of our City Cycling readings followed by an afternoon bike tour of notable infrastructure around Delft. While traveling along a main thoroughfare, the cyclists have priority over all forms of transportation from cross roads. Vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians from side roads must yield to the through traffic including the bicycles making traveling much more seamless and limiting stops and startups on main thoroughfares Through the roundabouts, the pedestrians and cyclists get true priority over any vehicle. We also reviewed the protected intersection in more detail. The Dutch roundabout and protected intersection provide much safer solutions to intersections involving multiple modes of transportation while still maintaining efficiency.
The protected intersections may impose more stops/starts but it utilizes much shorter cycle times to accommodate all forms of transportation through the intersection in a timely manner. A very important feature is the controlled right turn lane for vehicles. “Right on red” is illegal in the Netherlands and cars can only perform right turns when given a green arrow. This is frequently accommodated by allowing pedestrians and bikes to have a green simultaneously to the through traffic. These greens may seem short but are enough time for the wave of waiting bikes to get through. Still during the same through traffic green, the bike and pedestrian lights turns red and the right turn vehicles are allowed to go. This all occurs over a relatively short cycle time. On the other hand, the roundabout includes no signaling but uses yields to signify right-of-way. Cars are the fastest of the modes and therefore yield to the bicycles and pedestrians as they can easily make up any momentary delay and are the least vulnerable.
Cycling in the Netherlands is such a standard means of transportation that it stands out to look hesitant around cars. Markings and signage are very simple, standard, and clear as to the proper movements and priorities at intersections. The Dutch also are expert cyclists, usually learning at a much younger age, and can take on most obstacles with comfort. It’s harder to tell riding in a group of 14 Americans, but from past experiences, when riding with the Dutch, they bike with such art that yet again makes American methods look so unsafe, inefficient, and not intuitive.