Greetings from the Netherlands! So far I’ve been blown away by the Netherlands. Not just by the extremely windy conditions, but also by the Dutch transportation design. Everyone cycles here regardless of the weather. You can hop on a bike without fear that the bike lane will mysteriously end without warning. Cars will yield for cyclists. I had to bike around the roundabout a few times just to believe it!
Atlanta is designed for cars, but in the Netherlands cyclists have priority. The intentionality of Dutch urban planning has stopped me in my tracks a few times. The United States focuses on designing segments of roads and often neglects to continue the cycling infrastructure through intersections. The lack of protection for cyclists in the United States can be discouraging and is one of the reasons I don’t bike regularly in Atlanta. In Deflt (the city we are based in the Netherlands), there are protected intersections, bike specific signals, and lots of roundabouts where the cycle track is carried through the intersection with vehicle traffic. Advisory bike lanes are another neat design element exclusive to the Dutch. There is always room for cyclists, even if it doesn’t seem so at first. The advisory bike lanes don’t have centerlines and have two dashed lanes for cycling that can be used for vehicle traffic to past each other if needed. The whole system seems to work pretty flawlessly given that Dutch drivers are conscious of the constant present of cyclists on the streets. There are even streets that are exclusively for play called “woonerfs.” It’s so fun to bike along the street without fear of an awkward (and potentially dangerous) interaction with a vehicle. I imagine the neighborhood bordering the woonerf is a close knit community given the ample play space.
Cycling isn’t just for exercise or just for enjoyment here. In the Netherlands, cycling is a valued mode of transportation that holds equal stake in the planning game. I have never seen so many bikes! There is no limit to where you can bike here. You just have to add a few extra layers and brave the wind, but you can navigate the majority of the country on bike. The first day was a bit overwhelming and I felt like my brain was in hyper drive trying to process all the details that make up the larger network of cycling infrastructure. The Netherlands’s love of biking is infectious. It’s so encouraging to bike knowing that the roads were designed with the intention of protecting and facilitating travel.