Reid Passmore 6/5/17
Welcome to the Netherlands. The past few days, we have immersed ourselves in transportation utopia. Before I get too distracted, I have to remind myself what I hope to get out of this program. My goal is simply to take the 'feel' of Dutch infrastructure and translate it into something the US could use. Atlanta, unlike the Netherlands, is pretty devoid of bodies of water, and it is a lot hillier. The summers are also much more intense. Some Dutch solutions may not work for us. But the fundamental question is how do we get people comfortable enough to start considering a bike as a feasible alternative mode of transportation? Below I document some of my initial findings.
The bikes are not the greatest. But that's because no daily commuter needs to be going faster than 10mph. Additionally, there aren't any hills to climb. As a result, front brakes aren't really needed. Instead, lots of bikes opt for coaster brakes, which wouldn't actually help you much with stopping if you were going 20+mph. Most of the bikes also feature a step through frame, making them much easier to mount with movement restricting clothing. On the bike I'm currently riding, my back is completely straight, and I'm about a foot higher than normal. The handlebars and overall geometry of the bike are pretty effective speed reducers in addition to being very comfortable. Bike theft is a common problem in the Netherlands, so that might play into why the bikes aren't all that great.
As far as infrastructure goes, it's obviously top notch. The Dutch have truly accomplished something here. The red pavement is genius. The roads on which bikes share the road with cars are slow enough to be comfortable. All the cycletracks and intersections seem meticulously thought out. Everything seems in its right place, and it all looks like it has been there forever.
The switching of modes is seamless. From the airport we were able to get on a train, and, had we already had our bikes in Delft, we could have rode them from the train station to our hotel. Delft is a pretty and quiet city. It has lots of tile roads and plenty of canals that all make for some beautiful streets. There's a market that opens weekly.
It is difficult finding things that will translate over easily to the US, let alone Atlanta. Although the two way cycle roundabouts are cool, a lot of space needs to be devoted to build them. Plus some Dutch infrastructure wouldn't fly in the US, where our idea of efficiency is how many miles per hour we can go. Dutch infrastructure is clearly engineered to limit car speed. I'm still going through pictures of specific Dutch designs, but I'll be sure to post some when that happens.
So far I can tell how much of a vehicular cyclist I was in the US. There, I was concerned about going fast and getting away from traffic as quick as possible. It made for an incredibly aggressive form of biking. After cycling in the Netherlands I have found that my pace has slowed considerably. Also I've all sorts of different people cycling here. From the elderly all the way to teenagers biking and texting. I've even seen a couple of families all riding together, and also I've seen road cyclists. They're a lot more considerate than they are on the Silver Comet. More to come.