Part 2 of a series: Eurapan Transportation Vacation (ETV)
In logging a toolkit for Rebuilding the Rust Belt, we look to the Netherlands for poignant lessons. The Dutch created what is arguably the world’s most effective bicycle transport network. For good photos of the topic, you’re in the right place. For good reading on the topic, visit A View From the Cycle Path, the blog by British ex-pat David Hembrow, and Bicycle Dutch.
In the 2013 book In the City of Bikes, author Pete Jordan chronicles the bicycle’s growth in popularity in American and Dutch cultures in the 1880s, though we diverged early last century. Mass bicycle ridership has long been a fixture in Dutch society – including during WWII – when bicycling was an instrument of oppression and resistance to Nazi occupation.
In later decades, after de auto asserted its (bloody) dominance in Dutch cities, activists responded with a series of mass bicycle protests. Over more decades the sentiment evolved into official policy, and ultimately, into the building of a world class cycling transport network.
Cycling in the Netherlands today is safe and more convenient than driving (for everyday purposes). Some of the highest rates of cycle-commuting in the world are found in Dutch cities, where in some places bicycling accounts for 50% of all trips taken. Nederlanders approach cycling in a utilitarian fashion, wearing no particular style of clothing, and riding rusty comfort bikes. Traffic and cycling education begins in early age. Helmets have never been part of the culture.
Dutch engineers use the CROW Technology Platform to research, standardize, and regulate their systems of traffic, transport, and public space. This platform is analogous to – but more appropriate for cities than – the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), which governs American engineers’ administration of mass automobile dependancy.
In the City
Walking around central Amsterdam – amidst texting cyclists and one carrying a baby – I observed modern and efficient movement of people and goods on streets laid out in the 16th century (interspersed with canals). People and bikes, busses, a tram, canal boats, and a few cars co-exist with a balance of control and co-operation.
2 – With a contra-flow lane, the street flows one-way for cars – and two-ways for bikes – enhancing connectivity of the cycle network. (Note the smooth cobblestone pavers, including traffic markings.)
6 – Seconds before, Leidsestraat was covered with people. In a display of traffic co-operation, they instinctively parted as the tram approached.
Comfortably without a helmet, I embarked on what became a 52 mile trek through seven cities and the airport. My original intent was to ride from Amsterdam’s center to its rural edge. After quickly passing through all of the city’s historical layers in succession, I continued on cycle paths between the closely spaced cities of Haarlem, Bloomingdale Beach (the North Sea), Zandvoort, Heemstede, Hoofddorp, Schiphol Airport, Amstelveen, and Amsterdam.
Although my camera lost power upon reaching the North Sea, the images are an instructive sample of Dutch civil works. Let them inform our future work in Rebuilding the Rust Belt.
(Featured image: credit Google Maps)