By Jordan Hunt, 18 June 2017
The past two weeks have really been eye opening for me. The Dutch approach and the American approach to infrastructure design are drastically different in many ways. Firstly, the infrastructure itself varies between the Netherlands and the US. The Dutch have created a very defined system for structuring their roadways and cycle lanes based on vehicle speed and roadway use. The US is a bit more unorganized in their approach to developing cycle networks. One section of roadway may have dedicated cycle lanes, another section has sharrows, and then in another section the cycle facilities disappear altogether. The way in which the Dutch solve congestion issues is also very different from the American approach. In Atlanta, roadways are usually expanded in an attempt to reduce congestion. The Dutch rightly view this approach as only reinforcing the problem. Instead, they invest money into transit systems and cycle facilities to provide other options for people to travel along that corridor. Sometimes, they even remove the vehicles completely, like in the city center of the Hague. This is something that I would like to see in Atlanta especially. Too often we have four lane highways running through the center of residential areas. Even though it may not be feasible to remove the vehicles completely, it would be nice to see at the least a lane taken away to provide room for a cycle track in some areas. In order to see this type of approach taken in America, the public view of cycling will have to change.
If the people don’t support cycling and urge policy makers to support expanding its infrastructure, change will be hard to come by. The Netherlands has had a strong cycling culture for over 50 years. This culture didn’t just come about spontaneously though. The people chose to support cycling and then vocalized their opinions through public demonstrations and marches. I think that change within the US will also require active participation by the people. The minority that sees the potential cycling has as a transportation mode needs to use the voice they have to instill change. Hopefully, as the infrastructure becomes available and the cycling community grows, more people will see the benefits and potential in cycling. Most people will only change their current behavior if either they are forced to do so or there is incentive to do so. As cycling infrastructure is expanded within the US, more and more people will begin to change their habits, but it will surely be a slow process.