Spending the past week in the Netherlands has been an absolute pleasure, and we have been fortunate to see a vast variety of infrastructure and design methods that define the uniqueness of “the Dutch way”. We cycled through both the countryside of the Randstad region and bustling cities like Amsterdam, biked across historical towns like Delft and newly incorporated towns like Ypenburg, explored bicycle-planned communities like Houten and bicycle-integrated cities like The Hague, and rode on both large intercity trains and small interdistrict trams.
Figures 1-4: Diversity of Cycling in the Netherlands: Dutch Countryside, Suburban Neighborhood, Greenbelt in Houten, and Bustling Amsterdam
Design Difference Compared to the US
As discussed in earlier blogs regarding design planning, the key design difference in the Dutch method is the separation of bicycling facilities from roadway facilities, as opposed to the US approach of integration of the two modes. Separation allows for less instances of interactions with automobiles, which increase the potential for harm. Separate bicycle paths and cycle tracks were commonplace across the country, but in locations where they were not applicable, a shared roadway approach, with priority to the cyclist, was instead integrated. I can imagine how more comfortable I would feel on these shared roadways in the United States, but unfortunately cars very much control the streets of Atlanta.
In addition to separation, the much of the cycling network revolves around location and proximity to transit stations. Despite what many people may think, the Dutch do not view the bicycle as the ultimate key to every single trip and journey – it is instead a link on a multimodal chain of transportation methods. The train, tram, and metro are equally important to the Dutch (especially in travelling farther distances), so a seamless integration between modes makes the journey just as easy. In all locations at the trip, we were able to roll right in to a bike parking station that was connected to a larger train station, making switching between modes so easy. I think that if the US treated cycling as more of a link on a chain as opposed to its own thing, there would be more success in our ability to integrate the methods
Culture’s Influence on Design
Due to the Netherlands’ location, as well as a low sea level in the majority of the country, the Dutch are highly influenced by what they can do to leave the smallest environmental footprint as possible; even a sea level rise of a few meters would put almost 80% of their country underwater. From an environmental standpoint, bicycling is much more sustainable, as it has lower levels of pollution, higher instances of safety, and more community-oriented and inclusive results. For the Dutch, bicycle design is less of a choice and more of a necessity to maintain their diverse cultural history and characteristics.
Design’s Influence on Culture
In a cyclical nature, the design of cycling facilities has also influenced the culture and mannerisms of the Dutch people. For one, the design has caused the Dutch vehicle driver to be massively different than American culture. While American drivers are often characterized as stressed, aggressive, angry, and selfish, Dutch drivers act in quite the opposite way, being aware, accommodating, focused, and not distracted; this stems from a fundamental and universal understanding of the infrastructure and user characteristics on it. I experienced this firsthand in many instances, where Dutch drivers yielded to me, waited to pass me, and acknowledged my importance as a legitimate user.
Beyond just driver characteristics, the actual design and layout of many Dutch cultural landmarks have even been influenced by design. The famous Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has even added a bicycle path through the actual museum due to the large percentage of bicycle traffic located in the area.
Figure 5: Cycle Path under Rijksmuseum
Once again, so glad I was able to participate on the Dutch Transport trip – the lessons I learned will follow me throughout my future career in transportation and planning.
The Dutch have created a system of transportation infrastructure which allows people to travel all over the country without the use of a personal motor vehicle. All routes provide safe travel via car, bike, and foot. Long trips are made possible with the extensive train system, and trips within cities are convenient thanks to subway and light rail lines. Two of the most important aspects of Dutch roadway design are speed and separation. Drivers are forced to travel slowly because of curves, obstacles, and elevation changes in their path. Street parking can be moved from side to side, speed bumps and crossing tables can reduce speed, and horizontal roadway alignments can be altered to enforce speed limits. When speeds are around 20 kilometers per hour or lower, cyclists can safely share the same travel lanes as drivers, and in some cases, pedestrians can also safely share the road. “Fietstraats” are roads designed primarily for cyclists, with signs showing that cars are allowed as guests. They travel at bike speeds and give priority to cyclists. When travel speeds are higher, the Dutch do a great job of separating cyclists and pedestrians from cars. Cycle tracks are often at a different grade than the car lanes or pedestrian areas and are typically colored red to signal that they are designated for bikes.
Figure 2: Integration of Bike and Tram in Amsterdam
Dutch design differences from U.S.
American drivers like to go fast, and they typically do not like to slow down for cyclists. American roads have much higher speeds, sometimes with bike lanes on roads with 50 mile per hour speed limits. There is also a concentration of bicycle infrastructure in cities rather than American suburbs and small towns. Biking from Delft to Maeslantkering was eye opening because it showed that bicycle infrastructure does not end at city limits. Separated bike paths allowed us to travel safely for 12 miles past farm fields, small neighborhoods, and greenhouses. Cyclists are always accounted for on Dutch roads, whereas in America they are only beginning to be accounted for in cities. A lot of American cycling infrastructure is still designed to keep cyclists visible by keeping them next to cars, rather than separating modes based on speed and providing safety for cyclists. There are very few spots along bike routes in the Netherlands where I felt in danger of colliding with a high-speed vehicle. Americans need to recognize the importance of separation for bikes before average people will feel safe cycling for routine trips.
Figure 3: Texture and Color used to Designate Cycle Track
Influence between Dutch culture and design
The Dutch are environmentally friendly out of necessity. Most of the Netherlands is below sea level, and so they understand the threat of climate change and sea level rise. The Dutch recognized when cars caused too much pollution and too many traffic deaths. They protested for change in transportation, and the government responded well. They have dedicated money to creating, renovating, and maintaining bicycle infrastructure all over the country. Funding comes from national and local levels. Drivers understand the importance of cyclists because many of them ride bikes as well. Dutch drivers and patient and aware because they treat driving as a primary activity, not as a time to get other things done.
Figure 4: Planter Boxes Used to Enforce Low Speeds on Neighborhood Street
After spending a week as inquisitive visitors, eager to learn about and explore impressive Dutch infrastructure, I have a newfound appreciation for all the details and design elements that the Netherlands offer. Needless to say, coming home to Atlanta has provided a stark contrast. Each day abroad offered something new.
Delft showed us how a quaint college town can provide ample bike parking and covered bike parking in the midst of a historic city.
Utrecht taught us that we can preserve the treasured history of a city while still modernize the infrastructure.
The Hague exemplified how even with all the political and governmental buildings, a cyclist can still find routes and connections with transit. If the King and Queen can ride the streetcar, so can you!
And finally, Amsterdam showed us that no matter the size or population density, cyclists can still successfully navigate the busy (I repeat, busy) streets.
The United States prioritizes cars when designing transportation routes, and gives cyclists and those desiring public transit a backseat. In Atlanta, bikes are allowed to traverse the streets but the infrastructure does nothing but discourage this practice; tight lanes, fast design speeds, and the lack of separation for safety all prevent the average cyclist (me) from hopping on a bicycle. In the Netherlands, separation for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles allows for each modal user to feel comfortable in their own space. Low design speeds, smooth surfaces, easy way-finding, and traffic calming design techniques contribute to the Dutch cycling enthusiasm. Their designs also combine transit and biking facilities, which, upon returning home, I have determined to be one of the most critical ways that the United States must improve. Not everyone is capable of cycling 20 miles to work. The Dutch know that, and offer their population the realistic option of biking 5 miles to the train station, parking their bike at a covered facility, and enjoying a relaxing, prompt, 15-minute tram or train ride.
How has their Culture influenced their Design?
In addition to design, the Dutch culture supports the overwhelming interest in cycling. It all comes down to the history of how the Dutch built the infrastructure they now have. With motor vehicle accidents causing deaths to skyrocket, especially in children, the Dutch became strong proponents of putting an end to the car-centric attitude that once shaped their planning policies. The Dutch also value sustainability and believe that cycling is one way to promote joy and a healthy lifestyle. That said, most do not think biking should be considered a serious sport that requires equipment and heavy gear. Dutch culture represents a desire to cycle casually and practically, and the design reflects that in providing separation and pathways that connect points of interest and necessity.
Okay, so how does their Design influence their Culture?
The Dutch design – separation and protection for cyclists – allows for people to not really consider themselves cyclists, but rather people using bikes to practically get from one place to the next. Since deciding to bike to work does not present itself with a long list of cons as it would in the States, biking can be perceived as it should be: a safe, relaxing, practical way to get around. Certain designs, such as the situation in Houten, go even further to create strong communities of people that really can bike to most places they need to visit. The Dutch cycle tracks and fietstraats allow for a relaxed, friendly culture, one in which people can easily cycle two abreast and chat casually.
Thank you to all the professionals, my classmates, Dr. Watkins, April, and Dave for this unique opportunity to learn so much!
I think the overarching theme of Dutch transportation infrastructure is as follows: separating modes leads to safe and efficient systems. Whenever possible, vehicle lanes would be separated from bike lanes, which are separated from sidewalks, which are all separated from public transit lanes. And the separation is significant—where it’s not possible to have a physical buffer between modes, the lanes would ideally be separated by a curb. And at the locations where the different modes cross each other—namely intersections—grade separations are the first option considered. This mindset leads to designs that are extremely safe (one of the main reasons why only a small portion of cyclists there where helmets) and efficient (one of the reasons why we irked a large portion of the Dutch people we encountered while moving slowly as a large group—they’re used to a flawless, unobstructed system!).
One major thing I noticed is that, while the bicycle infrastructure in the Netherlands is world-class, there seems to be less of an emphasis on accommodations for pedestrians. In many situations during our trip, it seemed as though the bicycle path or lane was maximized, at the expense of the pedestrian facility. This is a contrast to design in the U.S., where pedestrian infrastructure is usually prioritized over bicycle infrastructure. It’s possible I felt this way simply because we had such a large group that had trouble navigating small sidewalks, but in general it seemed like there was potential to enhance sidewalk sizes in many places. Large groups aren’t the only (or even the most important) people who are affected by this—small pedestrian facilities also play a big role in the lives of people with physical disabilities. In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 was passed, mandating that any public facility be accessible by everyone. In 2016, the Netherlands ratified the UN Convention on the Rights for People with Disabilities; however, change in the infrastructure takes a long time to happen, and it seemed like not a whole lot had been done yet. It was fascinating to see a few Dutch people in motorized wheelchairs keeping the pace and even passing us in the bike lanes—it really showed their propensity for biking! It would be interesting to see how people in hand-driven wheelchairs fare, though.
I think the prominence placed on bikes in the Netherlands definitely has an affect on the culture of urban transportation. Through my experiences during the trip, it was made clear that bicycles usually have the right-of-way against both vehicles and pedestrians. When riding through a busy bike-and-pedestrian-only street during rush hour in Amsterdam, all I had to do was ring my bell and people would immediately get out of the way. At crosswalks, pedestrians have to wait for bikes to pass through to get across. It really showed prioritization of bikes in the transportation culture of the country.
This prioritization also has an effect on the drivers in the country. The design of intersections with bikes, with the “shark teeth” denoting cars should yield to bikes and the raised intersections, makes drivers much more cautious in regards to bikes. I think this translates well to other parts of the roadway, as Dutch drivers always expected bikes and exercised caution around them. This was a wonderful juxtaposition to the U.S., where bikes sometimes seem like a surprise to drivers.
Figure 1: An example of the "shark teeth" indicating that drivers should yield.
Figure 2: A raised intersection.
Pernisco, N. (2018, October 20). Accessibility for the disabled in the Netherlands: 5 Tips When Visiting Holland – DutchReview. Retrieved March 27, 2019, from https://dutchreview.com/culture/living-in-the-netherlands/accessibility-for-the-disabled-in-the-netherlands/
After experiencing the bicycle culture first-hand while studying abroad in the Netherlands for a week, I am impressed by the scale and consistency of their bicycle network that we saw all across the country. It is one thing to read about the Dutch bicycle infrastructure, but it feels completely different to experience it. From my visit in the Netherlands, I think bicycle transportation should be encouraged in other countries and cities around the world because when safe and separated infrastructure exists, cycling becomes more efficient and cheaper than driving. It is also one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transportation. For over 40 years, the Netherlands have been implementing and fine-tuning their bicycle network, which has also created a cultural shift in perspective to put cyclists first over cars. For these reasons, the Netherlands claim one of the highest bicycle rates, with one of the lowest injury rates compared to other countries. Overall the Netherlands infrastructure is a great example to follow in establishing a complete and consistent bicycle network.
There are several key differences in design between the Netherlands and the United States. The biggest difference is the uniformity and complete network seen in the Netherlands. Their protected bicycle lanes are designed to be painted red and raised from the street level, which is consistent nationwide. And bicycle infrastructure is incorporated throughout an entire town or city. Even when space is limited, advisory bike lanes will be designed along the street or other traffic calming measures, such as bike boulevards will be created. These elements are not commonly seen in America. Uniform elements such as raised bicycle lanes or designated paint colors are not enforced across the country. And the safe bicycle infrastructure that exists in major cities like Atlanta consists of a few bicycle lanes or protected cycle tracks, which do not connect across the entire city. Often there is little focus on designing minor streets in America to be bike friendly. Even though major arterial roads are dangerous for cyclists, smaller streets can create more connections for cyclists at an inexpensive cost. And one of the most important differences in America is that there are little safety measures established for cyclists at intersections. In the Netherlands, many elements are designed for bicycle safety and efficiency at intersections, such as protective islands around the intersection corners and intelligent traffic light systems that increases bicycle turning and through-put efficiency. These are just a few basic differences between the infrastructure in the Netherlands and in America. However, there are also big difference between our cultural perspectives regarding bicycle transportation.
Cycling rates are high in the Netherlands because Dutch citizens pushed for more bicycle infrastructure. However, in America riots and protests over the current bicycle infrastructure are not common, like they were in the 1970s for the Dutch. This major cultural impact in the Netherlands forced the government to incorporate safe, efficient protected infrastructure for cyclists. Following the implementation of bicycle networks, more people began to bike to work and around their community. I believe this is the most important take away from the trip. Most people will only bike if it feels safe. And the Netherlands only created a safe bicycle network once the people fought for it. Since protests and riots over bicycle infrastructure in America are not common, the government instead must take initiative on its own if it wants to see a shift away from car dependent transportation and higher bicycle rates. Once the infrastructure is established, more people will likely choose to bike to nearby destinations instead of drive.
Now that my jet lag is mostly gone and I’ve warmed my cold hands/feet with the Georgian heat, it’s time to reflect on my time in the Netherlands. Although I could write an entire book about it, I will spare you and just offer the highlights:
1. Ditching the car
The smooth integration of biking and transit made it easy to get just about anywhere. The abundance of bike parking at the transit stations, coupled with the easy transition from street level to parking, made ditching the car almost too easy. Furthermore, the train portion of the trip allowed me to free up my hands to get some work done (like write my blog post!).
2. Safety and comfort
Separating bikes, vehicles, and pedestrians with variable sidewalk and roadway heights is a popular design principle used by the Dutch. After my trip to the Netherlands, I understand why. Not only is this separation safer, but it is more comfortable for everyone in the right-of-way. It was almost comical listening to the Dutch explain their rides in America because sharing space with cars moving 45mph absolutely terrified them.
An even greater testament to the safety of Dutch bicycle infrastructure is the lack of helmets. After 50+ miles on my bicycle, I can count the number of helmets I saw on one hand, and even then, they were only worn by children. We could delve into whether I fundamentally agree with this, but regardless, the lack of helmet use spoke volumes.
3. Biking, biking everywhere (and everyone)
Bike paths are everywhere. They are in the city, countryside, and alongside freeways. There is almost always a well-planned space for cycling that provides a direct path from point A to B. I also loved the diversity of bikers. In the United States, a common argument is, “people don’t want to cycle.” Although true, this is only because riders aren’t given a thorough network of bicycle paths that provide a high level of safety like the paths offered in the Netherlands. We do not see women, the elderly, or children biking alone in the United States. In the Netherlands, these groups seemed to make up the majority.
Now take each point above, think of the opposite scenario, and there you have biking infrastructure and culture in United States. Design is different in the Netherlands because it rearranges the hierarchy of roadway design, putting bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure needs above cars. Increased priority has allowed cyclist culture to dominate the Netherlands, which is why there are so many people doing it, whether young or old, man or woman. The success of cycling infrastructure has sparked an increase in cycling, and the increase in cycling feeds back into better infrastructure and design. This ongoing “cycle” of culture and infrastructure is one I hope the US can eventually catch on to.
However, no one is perfect, and before the US starts plopping bike infrastructure haphazardly into its right-of-ways, there are some considerations that must be taken to account, which brings me to…
1. Bike traffic
Whether we’re talking about bikes or cars, traffic still exists. Morning rush hour is still a thing, and there are even conversations about widening bike lanes that are already 8 feet wide. Even though just about everyone detests traffic, it is a sign that a transportation system is being put to good use. On the bright side, at least an increase bicycle traffic does not mean an increase in carbon emissions.
2.Recognizing and using the bicycle infrastructure properly
There were a handful of opportunities to bike without our 20+ person group, but I noticed that during these times I found it harder to properly use the infrastructure because I had to navigate my own path. I oftentimes found myself biking on the wrong side of the street or taking a turn incorrectly. The citizens of the Netherlands most likely do not have this issue because they receive a formal education in cycling, and oh yeah, they have been doing it their whole lives!
3. Cars are still bigger than you
Most of the time I felt safe. Biking through Amsterdam at 5:00 PM on a beautiful, yet bustling Saturday afternoon was a testament to this. Cars were patient and pedestrians stayed on the sidewalk. However, there were still a number of near-misses. The near-misses usually occurred when I had to cross vehicular traffic, whether in an intersection or during a left turn. Curbside loading/unloading was also frequent for both passenger vehicles and commercial trucks, creating another scenario where I did not quite feel comfortable weaving out of my dedicated lane into faster-moving traffic.
In the end...
I hope to use what I’ve learned in the Netherlands to better shape the built environment in the United States. Incorporating bicycle (and transit) infrastructure into our transportation system will make our communities more livable by offering increased mobility and decreased vehicular congestion. As for me, I have pledged to swap my car for my bike for at least 1 trip per week. It may not be much, but it’s a start. After all, enduring change doesn’t happen overnight, but gradually, and for that, the United States should have hope.
For the past week, we have enjoyed taking, trains, ferries, trams, metros, and bikes across the Netherlands! The transit system is very robust in the Netherlands and I feel like the world is my oyster because I can take transit to wherever I would like to go!
Transit in the Netherlands is reliable and responsive. An expansive regional transit system connects different cities in the Netherlands. In each large city, a local transit system frequently connects internal communities. The Dutch hold all transit to a very high bar; In Amsterdam, a “frequent” train/tram/or bus arrives every 4 -6 minutes but in the US, a “frequent” bus arrives in less than 15 minutes. The Dutch use social and actual safety of staff and passengers, punctuality, seat availability and passenger-service, and travel information as performance indicators for their transit system (https://www.emta.com/IMG/pdf/brochure.pdf). Performance measures are tracked and used in conjunction with complex modelings system, historical data, and performance goals. Transit can be reliable and responsive with technology, tracking performance measures, and investment. If a transit system has a lot of monetary investment, service will be frequent and clean which are appealing to passengers. During our tour of transit in Amsterdam, I found it refreshing to talk with professionals in Amsterdam about transit goals because they discussed that they were also unsure about how their performance metrics would change with their new goals.
Bikes and Transit
Biking and walking are important sustainable modes of transportation related to public transportation; They are often lumped into public transportation in addition to buses, metros, and trams in the Netherlands because they are so highly associated. A car-free lifestyle is possible in the Netherlands with a combination of biking, walking, and transit. Passengers can bike/walk to stations, take the train into the city, and then bike/walk the last mile.
Parking a bike in a transit station is easy in the Netherlands. Bike parking at transit stations is a priority for Dutch mobility designers and planners. They are very proud of the planning and infrastructure that goes into bike parking lots. In Utrecht, bike parking at transit stations in the Netherlands will be able to hold over 12,000 bikes in spaces! A number of design components like circulation, storage space, and capacity, all play an important part in the functionality of bicycle parking spaces.
Boarding a train with a bike in the Netherlands is not as easy as parking a bike. Boarding a train with a bike requires an extra ticket, special bike train car, and a bit of maneuvering. Bikes are not allowed to board a train during rush hour because they take up a large space that could be dedicated to passengers. During off-hours, a bike can be brought aboard a train but the attendant may require the passenger to take the following train. A low floor train with foldable chairs, that can be moved out of the way, would facilitate easy boarding for passengers and passengers with a bike. Foldable bikes can be brought on board at any time because they take up limited space.
Dutch engineers and planners focus on integrating two major modes of transportation in the country: cycling and transit. They do this by ensuring that every street, intersection, and transit station is multimodal in nature (i.e. it is accessible by multiple modes of transportation).
The Dutch want to incentivize integrating bikes and transit on trips; they do this by making it easy and efficient to bike to a station and board a train. In every city we’ve visited, a plethora of bicycle parking is provided at the train stations. Large garages are constructed to hold bikes in an indoor and secure facility, and bike parking is also available outside in a less-formal fashion.
Figure 1: One of the bicycle parking garages at the Delft train station.
To show the extent of bike parking at train stations, one of the indoor parking facilities at the central station in Utrecht can hold up to 12,500 bikes. Bike parking in smaller cities, like Delft, is free for up to 14 days, and in larger cities it’s free for 24 hours before you have to pay to keep your bike there. Additionally, to make the transition between bike and train easier, these garages allow you to actually ride your bike directly into the garage and up to an open spot. The bike paths lead directly from the streets into the garage.
Figure 2: Bike-in entrance to the Utrecht train station parking.
Figure 3: Inside of the Utrecht station bike parking.
It is also possible to take your bike on board a train, with a few restrictions. Bikes are allowed on intercity heavy rail and some intra-city trams. On the heavy rail, however, there are only certain cars that you are allowed to bring your bike on, designated with a bike symbol on the outside. These cars have space for bikes, as well as equipment for securing the bike so it doesn’t fall during the journey. Also, you are not allowed to take a bike on the train during the peak travel times in the morning and afternoon, as the cars would be too crowded. Lastly, you are required to buy a special ticket to have your bike on the train.
Figure 4: A bike car on the tram in Amsterdam.
Figure 5: The equipment provided for securing a bike on the intercity sprinter trains.
Dutch Transit in General
Transit performance in the Netherlands is measured in terms of ridership, travel times, dwelling times, and rider satisfaction. Ridership is especially important for newer transit lines—for the newly constructed North-South line in Amsterdam, they were concerned about the levels of ridership upon opening the line; but they aren’t concerned any more, as less than a year after opening, they’ve already reached over 80% of the projected ridership by the year 2030. And rider satisfaction is always a concern with the government. In Amsterdam, the creation of the new islands IJburg has caused concern among citizens that the 26 tram will become overcrowded. As a result, the government is looking into alternatives to reduce crowding on the tram.
In the Netherlands, punctuality is an important value, and so they are always concerned with reducing travel times and dwelling times. In order to make transit reliable, urban designers have separated rails and lanes from other traffic. They’ve done this through grade separation and creating separate corridors for transit. Through this, they’ve minimized the conflicts with other traffic. Additionally, at the locations where transit and other traffic do mix, they’ve used traffic signal priority to minimize wait times for transit.
Today the class toured the ins and outs of the Amsterdam public transit system. The quaint town of Delft is worlds apart from the port city of Amsterdam it seems. While that was the focus for the group today, our class of burgeoning bike infrastructure experts has reaped the rewards of a top-tier transit system composed of trains, trams, and busses. This system is certainly not compartmentalized in relation to the biking infrastructure – the two systems interact and complement one another.
Bikes and "De Trein"
Bikes and transit are primarily integrated so that long distances can be covered by train or tram, while the “last mile” can be covered by bike. The system functions so that bikes can be brought on board trains and some other vehicles (trams, etc). Certain train cars are marked with a bike symbol to indicated space for a stored bike.
Getting a bike into the station is moderately simple as well. One can simply bring them through the turnstiles. This can only be done on non-peak hours, however. When some of our group members took their bikes on board, they had to purchase a special pass for around 7 Euros. There are special provisions for foldable bikes, which can be taken on without charge.
Bikes in the Station
Bikes in the station
The emphasis by the Dutch, by far, is to provide quality bike parking in and around stations so that a rider may store a bike at a station without having bring the bike along for the ride. Many commuters will have two bikes: one for the “initial mile” to the station and one for the “final mile” once at the destination. This emphasis can be seen in the shear amount of investment in bike storage. Utrecht had multiple storage areas with the largest holding 12,000 bikes. Den Haag, Delft, and virtually all major Dutch cities had large amounts of indoor bike parking at transit stations, while many cities were also in the process of building additional parking. Available parking is at capacity wherever one travels, showing the popularity of this approach. In these facilities, the exterior bike routes flow seamlessly into the garage, while location is always very close to the transit.
Transit: Final Thoughts
This coordinated system does not only rely on bike facilities alone. The trains form a critical component and must function efficiently to drive usage. To measure transit performance, the Dutch focus on measurables such as ridership, total trip time, on-time arrivals, and dwelling time. In Amsterdam, we have seen a focus on reducing total trip time in particular, as the North-South metro line was a massive investment for the city with a total cost above 3 billion Euros. Efforts are made in the hopes that transit is reliable and responsive. As I have visited, trains are rarely delayed, and ETAs are posted in multiple locations. For trains and trams, there is a focus on dedicated right-of-way. This reduces delays caused by car traffic. Out of all modes, including bike and pedestrian, transit receives first priority. With this system in place, the Dutch have paved the way for a quality combination of transit and bikes so that people can move about with ease.
From what I have gained so far, the Dutch will do almost anything, if not everything, for cyclists. The integration of bikes and transit seems like a piece of cake to them. Basically, one cannot think of transit in the Netherlands without thinking of bikes. The two main ways that the Dutch integrate transit and bikes is by allowing bicycles on trains and by having bike parking at train stations. Train stations have bike shops and bike parking where one can rent a bike, fix bike malfunctions, or even park their bike. Figure 1 and figure 2 below show the world’s largest bike parking with a full capacity of 12,500 parking places found in Utrecht.
Figure 1. World’s largest parking
Figure 2. Entrance for cyclists
Some trains also have cars where cyclists may bring their bikes along. Otherwise, cyclists may rent a bike through bikeshare at their destination. Figure 3 below shows a bike parking facility that we visited. The yellow bikes are bike share bikes. Figure 4 depicts the efficient use of space at bike parking facilities
Figure 3. Bike parking facility
Figure 4. Wow! Bikes on top of bikes
The bike parking are convenient for cyclists in multiple ways. First, there are no stairs inside the facilities where cyclists bike, maybe one step to prohibit biking in dangerous locations such as entrances. The absence of stairs and presence of ramps make it easy for cyclists to navigate the bike parks. Additionally, narrow pathways, turns, and curves slow down cyclists which prevents speeding and, in turn, accidents from occurring.
So, how come the Dutch are so invested in biking? How come they can have a bike parking facility with 12,500 bike parking spaces? Well, that is because the Dutch practice utilitarian cycling. They are able to do this because of the safety factors that have been put in place. If it was not safe to cycle, then the cycling rate would not be as high. If the cycling rate was not as high, then I do not think that the government would push for bike infrastructure as much. The Dutch measure transit performance using speed and reliability. For bikes, speed includes how long it takes a cyclist to get from point A to point B using the shortest distance possible. In addition to this, for public transit, it also includes dwell time. Speed decreases as operational time increases. Operational time may increase due to numerous factors such as dwell time, and inefficient use of vehicles and driving staff. Dwell time increases due to ticketing on the trams. For both cyclists and public transit, speed and reliability can be increased by redesigning streets, placing priority traffic signals, and canceling stops and transfers for buses, trams, trains, and the metro. By minimizing the wait time, transit has been made more reliable and responsive to create the safest and most efficient plan possible.