City Cycling provides thorough insight on the reasons transportation design and planning is so different in most of North America compared to Europe and especially cities in the Netherlands. While the situations in American cities and European cities are very different today, they were heading in a similar direction in the 1970s. The fate of the continents was largely dependent on a few key ideologies that resulted in the vast difference of infrastructure, policies and programs that exist today. In Chapter 6 of City Cycling, Peter Furth discusses the vehicular cycling theory developed and promoted by John Forester. This theory argues that cyclists should be treated as vehicles, in sharp contrast to European views that cyclists should be separated from vehicles. The vehicular cycling theory influenced American design manuals such as the AASHTO guidebook, which has translated to the infrastructure that exists in American cities today. Wide lanes were viewed as accommodating cyclists, whereas Dutch design would never allow cyclist and vehicles to share lanes. This theory and corresponding design practices have led to a much smaller percentage of the bike share of trips in the US, mainly due to perceived and real safety. The separation design principle employed in the Netherlands results in increased ridership, largely due to the level of comfort provided by separated bike facilities. While American transportation planning and design was hindered by the vehicular cycling theory for decades, views are starting to shift towards those used in the Netherlands.
Cities in the Netherlands understand the benefits of increased levels of cycling, including increased health, decreased air pollution and decreased traffic congestion, so they are willing to invest in a variety of strategies to maintain and increase the bike share of trips. For example, they have implemented strategies to incorporate cycling into other transportation modes. They encourage using bikes in junction with public transit by providing ample, secure bike parking. Historically, American cities that have high levels of public transit ridership have not implemented a similar strategy to the same extent. However, this is changing as bikeshare programs are being implemented and external bike racks are being installed on all buses. Additionally, Dutch cities also discourage car usage with programs and policies, while US cities typically do not. The Dutch can employ vast measures because they budget a relatively large amount towards bike-related efforts. The interest in cycling in US cities is starting to gain momentum, but cities still invest much less into cycling infrastructure compared to European cities. A larger shift in cultural mindset may also be required as this impacts the priorities of transportation planning and design. In the Netherlands, bike culture is stimulated from a young age as bike safety is incorporated into the education system. This strong cultural emphasis on cycling leads to support for safer infrastructure and a willingness to spend tax money on the issue. Cycling is a high priority to the Netherlands government, and this is not the case in the US. Overall, national and local transportation planning and design require a comprehensive combination of infrastructure, policies and programs to significantly increase the bike share of trips in their cities.