By Reid Passmore 6/4/17
Over the past few weeks I've been reading over Buehler's City Cycling book. Early on, it is established that there are fundamentally different schools of thought on bike infra: traffic integration and separate. With North America touting the former, the Netherlands stresses the latter.This fundamental difference has led to different infrastructure, cycling populations, cycling fatality/injury rates, and public policies.
US cycling infra, keeping in line with vehicular cycling, is pretty limited. Most of it consists of cycle lanes and sharrows. Separated paths are said to be dangerous; riding on the sidewalk is often illegal. The few paths that exist, exist for recreational use. Bikes can pretty much be on any road so long as it's not an interstate, meaning cyclists are expected to act as a car in a 35+ mph zone.
Because of low effort cycling infra, cities don't have to spend lots of money on cycling infra. Because of the low concentration of bikes, cyclists can usually put their bikes on busses or on trains. Because cyclists are already on fast roads, they can pretty much go as fast as they please. However, the above are both reasons and results of there being a low percentage of cyclists in the US. And by cyclists I mean commuters/general public. NOT sport cyclists.
The Dutch way looks at every type of interaction bikes can have with cars and systematically eliminates it. Cities in the Netherlands will pay over $20 per person for cycling infra. Instead of integrating bikes with traffic, every effort is made to separate bikes from traffic. This includes cycletracks, paths, and cycle lanes. Roads on which there are cycle lanes or bikes have to share with cars, are engineered to be slow. This can mean chicanes, raised road, speed bumps, etc.
As a result, cycling is embraced by the general public. Even with so many cyclists, the Netherlands still has parking facilities and allows bikes to be taken on trains. Dutch public policy is also very explicit when it comes to bike because of their prominence.