Bicycling in Atlanta
Atlanta’s bike infrastructure left me feeling very comfortable (although I know I may be an outlier). During our trip last Friday, we experienced biking on a separated trail, on a road with sharrows, on a road with no sharrows,on a road with a cycle track, and on a road with a thin bike lane on the side. In all circumstances that we encountered, I felt as safe as I needed to be.
I obviously felt the safest when we were on the Atlanta Beltline, which makes sense as the trail has its own dedicated right-of-way that it only shares with pedestrians. I felt like the “dominant” user of that path (which is interesting because the pedestrians should probably be the dominant user). Besides the Beltline, I felt safest on the cycle track along 10th Street, which had bollards separating the bike throughway from the automobile throughway.
I think what made me feel safe on these various roads was the fact that each level of bike infrastructure felt like it paired well with the immediate environment. On the roads with cycle tracks, vehicles seemed to be moving the quickest, so I needed some buffer to help me feel safe. On the roads with slow-moving vehicles (or simply just minimal volume), sharrows felt appropriate. Even on the roads which only had a thin bike lane, I still felt safe as the vehicular traffic was not travelling that fast and seemed to slow down when they came upon our platoon of bikers.
The one problem that didn’t necessarily make me feel uncomfortable but did make me think was that in some cases, there wasn’t an easy connection between these various bicycle facilities. A few times, we had to get off of our bikes and walk them around sidewalks or through parks. The best way to encourage biking, in my opinion, would be the creation of a better network throughout the city. It would be easier for people to navigate that way.
Bicycling in the Netherlands
Riding in the Netherlands is an entirely different experience compared to riding in Atlanta. The Dutch are used to world-class bike facilities, and the way they design shows that. Major routes through cities are seemingly designed as bicycle first, car second facilities. It looks like they take as much right-of-way as needed for the bikes, then add really nice planters and buffers, then give whatever is left to the cars. In the United States, it seems to be done the opposite way where bikes are given whatever is left after the cars get their share.
One of the big things that I noticed, especially in the point-of-view video, was that there aren’t many driveways that bikers have to worry about. One of the things that crossed my mind while we were riding around Atlanta was that any bike path conflicted with many entrances to parking garages or parking lots; the Netherlands bike paths seem to be un-interrupted (for the most part). Looking at Google Maps, it looks like they designate some corridors as being bike heavy, and then put the car-centric avenues the street over (with all of the necessary driveways). This neatly separates the two modes and removes a lot of conflict points.
It’s amazing to watch these videos and see how many people in the Netherlands rely on bicycles. Here, people view it as a leisure activity or a way to get to work on days when it’s sunny. From the videos I watched, it seems many of the people in the Netherlands only own bicycles and instead rely on them to get them everywhere, even when the conditions are not perfect. There were multiple videos of the Dutch cycling to work through a morning rain or snow, which would never be seen here in Atlanta. If bikes were not designed for in the Netherlands, the citizens would seemingly have no way to get to work. There would be no other option for them.
The most amazing thing I saw in any of the videos was the three-story bike parking garage in Utrecht. I could presently never see anything built like this in the United States, but I think it is one of the coolest things of all time. It looks extremely nice on the inside and it feels even better than a car parking garage in the United States. If we have the chance, I’d love to visit this location while in Utrecht.