Hi, my name is Katharine Brand. I am a fourth-year Civil Engineering major, pursuing the Global Engineering Leadership minor at Georgia Tech. My family is from Boston, but I grew up in New York, and was born in California. As you can guess my family loves to road-trip around the country. With all our coast to coast traveling, one of our biggest accomplishments was making it to all 50 states sometime before I started high school. This just fueled my desire to travel even more. In high school I took a school trip to China, my first overseas adventure. And then, while at college I studied abroad for a semester at GTL, taking in as much of Europe as I could by setting off to a new country almost every weekend. If I wasn’t an engineering student, I would be studying international affairs because I love learning about different cultures, histories, and languages. That’s why I am very excited to tour the Netherlands by bike with Dr. Watkins’ Sustainable Transportation class, where I can combine my interests in civil engineering with my love for traveling.
Biking in the Suburbs
Growing up, I lived in a small town right outside of New York City. Even though New Yorkers are known for their terrible, aggressive driving, that isn’t the case in my small, suburban town. People are generally friendly, and not always in a rush, so I was always comfortable biking around. Although I wasn’t a religious biker growing up, I do vividly remember my trips to work during the summer before I had my driver’s license. It was an exhausting but enjoyable twenty-minute ride to my waitressing job all the way across town. I biked through streets, through trails, and sometimes on sidewalks when I would slow down the cars behind me. It was quite the adventure because I rode through my hilly town on a beach cruiser (from when I lived in California), which doesn't have any gears
At the time I wasn’t aware of the biking conditions; however, now I realize my town was far from bike-friendly. There were many streets without sidewalks or bike lanes. And many sharp turns along these paths where drivers would have difficulty seeing pedestrians or bicyclists around the corner. On top of that, the residents in my town didn’t bike around often, so cars wouldn’t slow down around these corners because they didn’t expect to see any bicyclists or pedestrians. Although I enjoyed my bike rides, there are many elements that should be changed for the safety of the people in my hometown.
Thoughts about Transportation Abroad
My experiences abroad, especially while traveling through Europe, opened my eyes to a whole different world of transportation. While Americans are reliant on automobiles, Europeans depend on train travel. At least from my experience, I used trains much more often than cars or airplanes. In America, aside from the occasional subway ride, I can’t remember the last time I was on a train. While American streets and highways are interconnected and well maintained, Europe’s train systems are highly sophisticated and very useful to the residents and tourists. There are high speed trains between several different countries or local trains that stop at nearby towns. The system that they use is efficient and mostly on schedule. I realized that there are many alternatives to America’s automobile heavy transportation system. There is a lot to learn about useful transportation systems by studying and understanding how people travel in other countries.
Goals for the course
The Netherlands is a great example to the rest of the world about how to create bicycle and pedestrian friendly streets. I am really interested to learn about effective and safe designs of multimodal transportation in big cities. While American cities and suburbs are heavily reliant on automobiles, road networks should also benefit pedestrians and bicyclists, even in highly dense cities. Allowing space for more pedestrians and bicyclists is not only more environmentally friendly, but also safer for the community. I hope to gain a better understanding of necessary roadway infrastructure that can be improved in Atlanta after gaining perspective from the Dutch system. And more importantly, I hope to improve my endurance and bike skills while abroad.