Current status of the Netherlands vs. US in terms of cycling
The bike share of trips is only about 1 percent in the United States and about 26 percent in the Netherlands. Daily distance cycled per capita, ranging from 0.1 km in the United States and 2.5 km in the Netherlands. The higher share of trips by bicycle in Dutch cities may be partly explained by shorter trip distances than in American due to more mixed-use development, less suburban sprawl, and higher population densities in Europe. In the Netherlands, 40 percent of all trips are shorter than 2.5 km, compared to only about 30 percent in the United States. However, even within the same trip distance, Americans cycle for only 2 percent of trips shorter than 2.5 km, compared to bike mode shares of 29 percent in the Netherlands. For trip distance from 2.5 to 4.5 km, the bike mode share in the United States is less than 2 percent, far lower than the 35 percent bike share of trips in the Netherlands.
Cycling is common among all demographic groups in the Netherlands. 56% of women are as likely to cycle as men in the Netherlands. By comparison, 24% of women in the United States. High levels of car ownership are not necessarily incompatible with high levels of cycling.
Why does the Netherlands have high levels of cycling?
The Netherlands are affluent countries where almost all households have cars. Thus, their high cycling levels are not due to an inability to afford a car.
Higher taxes on car ownership and use in the Netherlands help explaining lower levels of automobile ownership. In the Netherlands, taxes account for roughly 65 percent of the gasoline retail price, compared to much lower tax shares in the United States (20%). In 2009 gasoline retail prices per liter was $1.87 in the Netherlands while the United States had $0.65.
Increasing car use in cities led to environmental pollution, roadway congestion, and a sharp rise in traffic injuries and fatalities. Those harmful impacts of car use provoked a dramatic reversal of the transportation policies of most Dutch cities. Instead of adapting themselves to the car, most cities chose to restrict car use and increase its cost while promoting public transportation, walking, and cycling. Greatly expanded and improved cycling infrastructure contributed to a rebound in cycling.
Policy Regarding Bicycle Separation from Traffic
In the US, the main reason given for not cycling more is the danger posed by motor traffic. Cyclists willing to ride in heavy traffic represent a small fraction of the population; the mainstream population has been characterized as traffic-intolerant. Within the United States, cities with more dedicated bicycling infrastructure tend to have more bicycle use.
The Dutch has strict urban streets policies for bikes to operate in mixed traffic.
- Speed limit should be 30 km/h (19 mph) or less.
- Traffic volume should be 5,000 motor vehicles per day or less
- The road should have no car lanes marked, including no centerline
The Dutch Design Manual also recommends bicycle lanes for a rather limited set of circumstances: roads with two lanes and no parking lanes.
On streets too narrow for exclusive bike lanes, many European countries use “advisory bike lanes.” Using dashed lines, they divide the street into a central driving zone that is too narrow for two cars and a pair of edge zones that are in effect bike lanes that cars may use when encountering opposing traffic.
In the United States, however, the government’s position is that its responsibility is satisfied by allowing bikes to share the road; anything beyond that is optional. The government thinks that all bicyclists want is wide roads, smooth pavement, and modified drain covers so that our bicycle wheels won’t get caught. More importantly, the development of bicycling infrastructure in the United States has been hindered by three principal barriers. One is lack of popular interest, something that has clearly turned around in many American cities. Second is national engineering guidance biased in favor of vehicular cycling. The remaining hindrance is the political question of funding for bikeway improvements.
Integration of Cycling with Public Transportation
Over the past few decades, the Dutch and American cities have made impressive progress integrating cycling with public transportation. The Dutch cities have focused on increasing the quantity and quality of bike parking at public transportation stations. American cities have placed more emphasis on facilitating bikes on board, either by installing bike racks on buses or permitting them on rail vehicles.
There are some potential conflicts between cycling and public transportation. First, on some routes, cycling and public transportation may compete with each other over short distances. In Dutch cities, there is evidence that provision of very low-cost semester and annual tickets for students shifts some cyclists to public transportation.
Another potential conflict involves taking bikes on board rail vehicles. Bikes can cause problems during peak hours when all available capacity is needed to accommodate passengers and there is no extra room for bikes. Taking bikes on buses is much less of a problem, because bike racks are external and do not reduce passenger-carrying capacity. But even bike racks can be filled to capacity during the peak, forcing cyclists to wait for later buses.
In the Netherlands, many residents use a bike to reach the nearest suburban rail station, park it there, and then take the train to the city center, where they continue their trip with another bike they have parked at the main train station. To prevent bike theft, many cities in the Netherlands offer guarded parking lots for bikes with a personal attendant to discourage theft and vandalism.
In the United States, the alternatives to personally guarded parking are bike lockers or bike cages. Recently, some public transportation systems have been installing electronic bike lockers, which are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and permit daily or hourly rental. Bike cages provide less security than bike lockers because anyone with a keycard can gain access to the bikes parked there, but they require less space and are cheaper to construct.
Big City Cycling in the Netherlands and the United States
Compared to cities in the United States, European cities have much higher cycling levels, at least partly due to the greater extent and longer history of efforts to increase cycling. Amsterdam has extensive, well-connected, and integrated networks of bike lanes and paths and it continuously expands and improves its separate cycling infrastructure. Some examples of the infrastructure are synchronized traffic-signal timing at cycling speeds, cycle tracks, intersection design, bike stations, bicycle accounts, and cycling training. Moreover, Amsterdam has implemented traffic calming and limiting speeds in most of its neighborhood streets to 30 km/h as well as home zones with further speed reductions to 15 km/h and streets that are fully shared by nonmotorized and motorized users. Amsterdam has implemented and successively expanded car-free pedestrian zones in their city centers while reducing car parking supply and increasing its price.
American cities have made considerable progress at raising cycling levels. For example, car-dominated American cities such as Portland and Minneapolis have increased their bike mode shares by sixfold and fourfold, respectively. Portland is implementing comprehensive, well-integrated, long-term package of infrastructure, programs, and policies to promote cycling. The city is most notable for its bike boulevards, dense bikeway network, innovative bike corrals, large number of cycling events, and lively bike culture. Minneapolis has an extensive system of off-street bike paths-the most bike parking per capita of any American city-and offers an impressive adaptation of cycling to cold, snowy winters.
Developments in Bicycle Equipment and Its Role in Promoting Cycling as a Travel Mode
There are various types of bicycles available to use for sport, recreation, and utility as well as technological advancements in components, materials, and manufacturing techniques but the basic design has changed little in the last 120 years. In the Netherlands, utilitarian bicycling is dominant; bikes are designed primarily for practical transportation as opposed to sport or recreation: everyday riding, in normal clothes, in a variety of weather conditions, and with minimal maintenance. In the United States, where utilitarian bicycling has been less prevalent and transportation-oriented bicycles have historically been harder to find. Re-purposing bikes is common in the United States; some riders may choose to have just one bicycle and use it for different purposes on different days.
Some perceptions of utilitarian bicycling are
- Desire to wear “normal” clothing
- Need to carry cargo or passengers
- Frequent stops and starts
- Priority of being able to see and be seen
- Exposure to theft
- Priority of reliability
Bicycle equipment, old and new, has an important role to play in enhancing the feasibility and desirability of utilitarian bicycling. The main purpose of utilitarian bicycling is to get somewhere-running errands, chauffeuring children, going out for the evening, or similar trips-is different from bikes tailored to sport or recreational riding.
Based on a 2006 study of the types of bicycles used by students and employees commuting to the university in Davis, California, where utilitarian cycling is among the highest in the United States, 43 percent of respondents reported using mountain bikes, 24 percent road bikes, 18 percent hybrids, 10 percent cruisers, and 5 percent other styles to commute. In the Netherlands, however, a 2008 survey of residents in four Dutch cities showed that 97 percent owned at least one geared “normal” bike (utility-oriented bike), among any other types of bikes they may have owned.
Although more advanced bicycle equipments have been introduced every year: electric assistance in various forms, new protective shells for bicycles, new forms of bicycle components like frame, wheels, bicycle infrastructure and the overall bicycling environment influence the most promoting cycling.
The Netherlands surpassed majority of the categories in terms of cycling: policy, infrastructure, integration with public transportation, city cycling. Only category that the United States was superior was Americans utilized more various types of bicycles. I think the potential difference that keeps separating between the two countries is how people think about cycling.
In the Netherlands, most people bike primarily for moving from A to B, which means cycling is another means to go somewhere in Dutch's point of view. In the United States, people bike not only for commuting, but also bike for sport or recreation, which is the reason why Americans utilized more various types of bicycles. In order to promote cycling in the United States, people need to start biking more rather than driving cars.