While a delegation from Portland Oregon was visiting my hometown ’s-Hertogenbosch and some other places in the Netherlands to experience Dutch cycling, I was looking at cycling in the United States. Not that that was the main goal of my journey -I was in the US for a self-paid holiday and to visit friends- but I couldn’t help seeing and recording what some of the cycling and the infrastructure was like. (Video at the end of this post.)
Of course I know it is not really possible to say something in general about “cycling in the US”. There are many different places with very different cycling cultures. But I have now visited the US so often and I have been in so many places, that I do observe some general patterns that I think may be interesting to share.
The main difference between the US and the Netherlands is that cycling is not seen as transportation in the US by the general public. Only very few people use the bicycle to go from A to B for their daily business. For the average American cycling is something kids do or when you do cycle as an adult, it is mainly for recreational purposes. And you dress up for the part: wearing hi-viz, a helmet, with a bicycle to match, one the Dutch would call a ‘race bike’.
The social pressure to wear a helmet in the US is enormous and it is almost completely absent in the Netherlands. In that respect the two societies couldn’t be further apart. That is just an observation, I don’t want to get into a helmet discussion here. Many in the US genuinely believe in the helmet and only very few do in the Netherlands. A given, that won’t change. But the outfit of the average rider in the US gives cycling an image of a ‘dangerous activity’. On top of that, traffic makes that cyclists seem to be in a constant “hurry”. Not surprising that cycling this way only appeals to a small group: the younger and fitter adults, mostly male.
I found it very interesting to also see a very different type of average rider in Davis (CA), a university town with a lot more cycling and a lot more relaxed cycling. There the bicycles were far more of the upright variety and people were cycling in normal clothes without all the superfluous safety measures. Good to see that this is also possible in the US. This relaxed type of cycling obviously attracts a far wider range of people, even without specific cycling infrastructure. I did see some cycle lanes in Davis, but I saw no cyclists in them, only private trash cans waiting to be emptied. I am told that Davis has bike trails that connect neighborhoods and also tunnels to cross roads and railroad tracks. A lot of the campus is also car-free. But I didn’t see that. I saw most people cycle in the quieter down town area with (for the US) narrow streets with low traffic volumes at low speeds.
I also saw much more cycling in San Francisco than before (5, 6, 7 years ago) and there I did see new infrastructure. Bike lanes had been installed that had not been there on my previous visits. That is a good development, but I was disappointed to see that most lanes are just paint (that was wearing off already) and that these lanes usually stop right before intersections. To improve safety for cyclists it is most important to get the intersections right, because that is where crashes happen most. Lanes on straight stretches of road do not help much in improving safety.
I was impressed by some streets in Chicago, a city I visited for the first time. The experimental two-way bike lane in Dearborn St. is not bad at all. It was great to see bike signals. They are very new (only installed last November) but they work very well. Cyclists obey them, almost certainly because there is no other traffic in your path when you have a green light. That is because there is a different green cycle for turning motor traffic and for cyclists going straight. It makes the wait worth while! This is something I hadn’t seen for myself in any country but my own. A real step forward.
The bike tracks in Chicago are also ‘on the other side of parked cars’. That enhances the feeling of safety. But the lanes did still look a bit ‘temporary’. Probably because it was all still only paint with some plastic bollards. They didn’t feel so permanent and blended in as they do in the Netherlands. That makes that you have the feeling the lanes could just as easily be removed again.
It was good to notice that US drivers generally seem to respect other road users: as a pedestrian I got the right of way in crossing the streets especially by turning motor traffic. Which, I am sad to say, you cannot rely on in London for instance. But most of the streets without cycle infrastructure that I saw in Chicago did not look very inviting, not enough at least, to try and ride a bicycle myself.
Chicago is about to have a shared bike system. The ‘Divvy‘ bikes. I have already seen them when they were presented to the public and they look very good. San Francisco is getting a small system this August. The ‘Citi bike‘ system in New York has just been implemented and it is very successful. Shared bikes are coming to more US cities. If there are many of those bikes on the streets that may change the image of the ‘cyclist’ a bit. A necessity in my opinion if there is to be a good future for cycling in the US. The image of the ‘cyclist’ would have to change from the more racer type of cyclist to the more ordinary person on an upright bicycle. If a combination were possible of more riders like the ones in Davis, and more cycling infrastruture of the quality I saw in Chicago (or better), then cycling will appeal to a much wider range of people. That is the way forward for cycling in my opinion, not only in the US, but everywhere.
My personal observations of cycling in the US. (Filmed in Chicago, San Francisco, Davis (CA), the Lake Tahoe area and in Virginia City (NV). Some of the footage from the rental car was filmed by Lei Lennaerts.)
For this blog post I need to thank Steven Vance for showing me around in Chicago and giving me valuable explanations with what I saw.
This blog is about cycling in the Netherlands, but I sometimes write about places outside the Netherlands to look at cycling there from a Dutch perspective. Previous posts featured cycling in London, Budapest, the Czech Republic, Brussels, Kortrijk (Belgium), Berlin and Milan (Italy). There are also later posts about Sydney and Brisbane, Australia.
309 thoughts on “US cycling from a Dutch perspective”
Someone was not able to do it)))
The Netherlands: a tiny country, the size of the southern tip of mainland Florida (from Lake Okeechobee down to the Keys). Add 17 million inhabitants. Add 32 thousand (yes!!!) miles of bike lanes!
Starting your trip with bikes will be the best way to discover this place. Thanks for the information.
Danish. Cyclist here. I have made a cycling trip to the Netherlands and I’ve tried cycling in the US. Of course, coming from such a staunch cycling culture, i was surprised by the way cycling is viewed in the US- there is a lot of cultural stigma attached against cycling and cycliststs that did startle me.
This article is as arrogant and disrespectful as any I have ever read. He speaks like a spoiled child that isn’t allowed to do what he wants when playing with his toys. I’ll respect bicyclist when they obey the traffic laws. When they stop at stop signs like they are supposed to, when they get the hell off the side walks, and go with the flow of the traffic, yield to traffic and stop bunching up in groups that causes traffic slow downs and safety hazards. It is the same kind of arrogance displayed here in this article as you will see in most bicyclist when they are on the road. They assume that once they are on a bicycle that they have the right away and that everyone on the road needs to yield to them. I have listened to bicyclist talk about how rude car drivers are all the while ignoring every law in the hand book. When bicyclist start obeying the rules of the road, and giving the same respect that they demand then I’ll listen to them. Otherwise go oil your sprocket.
@black2deep, sorry but, have you really read it? Maybe you misunderstood the author. I think his article and video are just very politely sharing facts, for example that there is a better way for cycle traffic, working very well for decades now in an entire country.
About what you explain, it’s true that there is sometimes a not so good behavior from a minority of car drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, mainly from the stress of the current conflicting situation. An example is this video from Park Avenue and 28th Street (Manhattan, New York City):
And a similar “traffic violations” video from the Netherlands:
Amsterdam cyclists during rush hour
Why Dutch offenses are so minor in comparison, and traffic looks smoother? It’s not only the size, Amsterdam’s greater metropolitan area is about two million people, not so different from Manhattan’s population.
Dutch stricter traffic education is a more likely factor. And especially, when traffic is better organized, by taking into account the different speeds of cars, bicycles, and pedestrians, then everything works in a more effective and relaxed way for all.
Fortunately, recently the situation has begun to improve with many interesting new projects, mostly not comprehensive yet, but it’s a good start:
America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities
Really? Drivers break at least one law every trip they make a trip of any length, speeding being the most common, but running stop signs is also common. Should we stop making streets and roads until every driver obeys every law 100%? Or is that an impossible demand? And is withholding lifesaving infrastructure because a few people act like people instead of angels really an ethical way of allocating resources?
In all respect I ride on the sidewalk because cars where I live don’t notice me and riding in a group makes us more visible. As for breaking laws you are correct they need to be followed better
If something just happens by occassion then you will not pay that much of attention. A natural reaction. For this you can’t blame that much cardrivers. In this case an infrastructure for bikes will be a great help for everybody.
If a bike can’t go the posted speed limit it has no business disrupting traffic!
Bikes are for single people and children, not people with families.
I think, TennesseMan, that you didn’t understand that much of the system in The Netherlands. Whole families do bike here, see the vidoes. It is just what you want. To post here a story which I did before: “In 2011 died 32376 people in traffic in the US. The population then was about 308 million people. That makes 1681 per million that died in traffic. Here in the Netherlands where the speed limit is 130 km/h, died 627 people in 2011 in traffic on a population of 16,7 million. That means 37,5 per million”.
Meanwhile our population grew to 16,8 million and 570 people died in traffic. That means 33,9 per million. You might see it as a hobby of the Dutch. But you are right that we pay a higher income tax than in the US. In the Netherlands we like to spend money on quality road systems.
I have a family and I ride a bike when the weather is nice…? You’re not very observant are you.
That is not a very smart and it is a rather bellicose statement. The speed limit is only there because of cars. Slower speeds make people less prone to collisions. Basic physics, F=m*a. Mass of about 105 kg and a speed of 25 kmh = 2625 newtons. It would hurt and you’d get some scraped and bruises, but not even close to killing someone A car going 25 km/h would have a force of 50 kilonewtons. Enough force to really hurt someone Probably not going to kill them, but only a little faster at 40 km/h, and 80 kilonewtons. Now that has a much higher likelihood of killing someone. And not all Dutch cyclists are relaxed. A few of them do ride with lycra but not even they generally use helmets unless it is part of a team uniform. People with families cycle a lot in the Netherlands. Their children are so safe that is is absolutely possible that a 5 year old can ride on their own in the Netherlands. That parents don’t usually even buy bakfiets’ (Mark, what is the plural of a bakfiets?) because they know their children are safe riding on their own little bicycles and parents generally bike their infants and toddlers around on special seats you attach to a regular upright bicycle. And those are regulated like car seats. Other people can ride around to. When cars and other motor traffic goes no faster than 30 km/h in urban areas and 60 km/h in rural ones, in the right volumes, cyclists and motor traffic can mix because cyclists can easily go 25 km/h when mixing, not slowing cars down much if at all. At higher speeds and volumes the Dutch will provide a cycle lane for them, if not a completely separate cycle path. So on infrastructure like a bike lane wide enough to ride two abreast or a cycle path, bikes and cars will not slow the other down.
one bakfiets, two bakfietsen.
Remember that Motorists are guilty of the same and similar sins: not stopping fully at signs, not obeying traffic laws (turns, speed limits, signaling during lane changes and merging, talking and texting on cell phones). It’s a catch 22 my friend – that since not all people, be they motorists or cyclists obey the law you’re bound to observe bad behaviors no matter who you observe.
Mark obeys the laws. He cycles in the normal Dutch fashion, obeying the laws but breaking them if they don’t make sense. Like a bike light that does not work. Though the image of a non-stop sign obeying cyclist is unheard of in the Netherlands because of the near-stop sign freedom. You will have to cycle very far to try and search out a stop sign, and a yield sign is all that is required. Cyclists on the sidewalks in anywhere but the Netherlands is doing so because they are trying to protect themselves against the massive cars who do not respect them, not because they are trying to be law breakers. In many US cities it is in fact legal to ride on the sidewalks, sometimes with exceptions for downtown areas. You either ride on the road where you are quite likely to get yelled at, and if you ride on the sidewalks you might get yelled at by a pedestrian. One of these groups has a potential weapon and the other chances are does not. Here’s a hint, it is the drives who have the weapon, but Dutch drivers do respect cyclists, and anyone who hurts a cyclist on purpose or recklessly is considered a barbarian in Dutch eyes. In the Netherlands you do not have this problem of people riding on the sidewalk, as where a cyclist is intended to go is very clear, on the roads if there is no cycle path or cycle lane, on the cycle lane if present or on the suggestion lane if that is present, or on the cycle path. This is written into law. And almost nobody has any reason for not using the cycle provision, as they get you to your destination faster than a car in most cases and almost always more directly.
Bicycle laws are ignored a lot in the cities. Like the post above they weave in and out of traffic. Ride the white line when there’s adequate room on the shoulder and my favorite taking up the right lane entirely when the sidewalk is free and clear. The Netherlands is a poor example it was in inhabited before the US the cars are smaller speeds are slower and everything you need to live is in a 5 mile radius. If you ride on 2 wheels I believe you should be more aware and cautious. Motorcycles to that sticker “look twice motorcycles are everywhere” drives me nut’s. They feel they have special rights. YOU look twice. Cars have enough to worry about not getting T-Boned at an intersection. Don’t blame the other, start with yourself.
It’s true that quiet some cities in an enormous country like the US are more distance than in small country as the Netherlands. If you think that the size of the country has something to do with having a successful transportation system which includes save bike lanes, then I suggest start to make separate bike lanes in cities of the size of Amsterdam or smaller. A lot of trips are less than 10 km, which is a nice distance to bike and relax. The majority of bikers don’t go out of the cities. For distances bigger than that in the Netherlands we consider to go by car, or train. In case of traffic jams in the city a trip by car might be more stressful and might last longer than a trip by bike.
You are right as well that the majority of cars are more smaller in the Netherlands, although there are SUV as well. That the pattern of cities gives more narrow streets would mean that there would not be space suffient for bikers. I see your point of view on this as not value. In a country as the US there is so much more space to make a good bike system happen. According to the speed you are wrong, Bill. The highest speedlimit in the Netherlands is 130 kmph = 80.778 mph. We don’t blame you, Bill, but I think it’s very hard for you to think out of the box, according to this subject.
The Dutch have well combined public transport and cycling for where the distances are larger. The racks on buses in the United States and the bike parking in Chicago are examples of the US following in Dutch footsteps. The Dutch have tens of thousands of bicycle parking spots in a railway station somewhere. It would take a huge amount more space to put the same amount of car parking there. There is a public bike share system, called the OVFiets, but it is intended for people who need something to ride when they go from city to city on trains, but a similar concept is quite possible in the United States and Canada where sprawl is prevalent. Besides. Most car journeys are under 7 km. An easily bikeable distance, given a safe and convenient (IE not stopping for a stop sign nor traffic light every block and not riding with fast or busy motor traffic). Think you need a car for groceries? Try buying a cargo bike or getting a cargo trailer. Want to cycle from city to city or more than 15 km on your commute? Velos work well, David Hembrow rides 30 km each day in one per direction and it works well. Bicycle paths are designed for high speed, 25 km/h is normal in Urban areas, especially places like Houten where cyclists never need to yield to motor traffic or wait at a traffic light. You could easily go 5-10 km faster in rural areas or on non-stop rides. Bike paths are designed with speeds of 35-50 km/h, and people can often ride faster. I saw a velo going 87 km/h. That is fast.
I lot of America was settled and a lot of cities incorporated before we transformed our roads starting in the 1920’s and 1930’s but really starting after the second world war ended in 1945. Portland Oregon mostly built up after WWII for automobiles is adapting to true multimodal transportation, motorized and unmotorized. Cycling was the thing from the late 1800 to early 20th century and was endorsed by Mark Twain, Samuel Clemens himself. So cycling does work in our cities and what is happening in places like New York, Chicago, Washington DC and San Francisco. I and other cyclist drive too and speeding laws are ignored in most of the country. Simple firm enforcement of the law would go a long way both drivers and cyclist need to obey the rules, and the Netherlands vigorously teaching the traffic rules for walking, bicycle riding and automobile driving that is their real “secret”. If you are driving a motorized vehicle that can kill a pedestrian or cyclist, you have a responsibility to look out for and avoid pedestrians and cyclist in a city. When I drove a 40 foot bus (60 foot flex bus) with a commercial drivers license I went out of my way to avoid those crazy little cars and SUVs that cut in front of my 13 or 20 ton bus with airbrakes and I also could not slam on airbrakes and knock over and injure standing passengers. I took my responsibility on the road as a very large vehicle that could do a real number on a crazy driver in a pick up truck. Every should professionally drive, cycle and walk to the rules that we should actively teach starting in elementary school and we should really enforce the law. Don’t go to the Netherlands or Germany and rent a car and drive it with an attitude like that, we should be the same here in enforcing and educating the laws of the road and street, country and city.
You know it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk right?
Data from the American Journal of Public Health:
* Bicyclist injury rates per 500 000 km traveled
– United States: 25
– Netherlands: 0.4
* Bicyclist fatality rates per 100 million trips
– United States: 21
– Netherlands: 1.6
* Percentage of trips in urban areas made by bicycling
– United States: 1%
– Netherlands: 28%
* Percentage of trips in urban areas made by bicycling, by age group
– United States
“Promoting Safe Walking and Cycling to Improve Public Health: Lessons From The Netherlands and Germany” (American Journal of Public Health, Sep 2003)
Other related health statistics, from the OECD, international organization of which United States and Netherlands are member countries:
* Obesity rate among adults
– United States: 36.5%
– Netherlands: 11.4%
* Life expectancy at birth
– United States: 78.7 years
– Netherlands: 81.3 years
OECD Better Life Index: United States
OECD Better Life Index: Netherlands
There are many different levels of cycling safety by country, however United States and Netherlands are certainly two extreme situations.
The main reason seems to be that, in the United States and many other countries, car traffic and bicycle traffic are mixed on the same roads. While, in the Netherlands, car traffic and bicycle traffic are separated.
I visited that country, and it’s true that Dutch people can go by a direct route to literally any place by bike, and never mix with trucks and cars over 30 km/h (20 mph).
So, does this mean that, to achieve the same traffic safety, we should build cycle tracks on each and every street of our countries? Not at all, of course. I’ll try to very briefly explain their system.
The Netherlands is a country with decades of experimentation and optimization on bicycle safety. We from other countries can benefit from all their previous good work and experience in this field.
There are many details (protected intersections, roundabouts, teaching, etc., etc.) but basically, for example among the city streets there are a minority of 50 km/h (30 mph) distributor roads for cars. These are all accompanied by protected bike paths, or sometimes bike lanes at least, and protected intersections. Bike paths and intersections feel very safe even for children and seniors, and they also often bike.
The majority of the city streets are very different, in the 30 km/h (20 mph) areas with almost no cars, or just a few very slow cars. There, in the city center and residential areas, bikes go often on the peaceful road (or rather bike street) because bike paths are not so needed, and therefore not so frequent, in those quiet areas. Some of them, called woonerf (“living street”), have an even lower speed limit of 15 km/h (10 mph). So, no need to build bike paths on every small street.
Of course, outside the cities, there are also for example 100 km/h (60 mph) regional through roads and 130 km/h (80 mph) motorways without bicycles. There are many separate bike paths to move between towns, etc.
So, apart from a multitude of other details that we can see for example on this Bicycle Dutch site and on the internet (articles, photos, videos…), basically this is it.
USA death per 100,000: 0.2508623392913139
Netherlands death per 100,000: 1.0952380952380953
I don’t know where you got those stats, but they’re wrong. Take a look here for instance, where it states:
And the figure of traffic deaths per 100,000 pop. doesn’t even say much, because it doesn’t take into account how far and by what mode of transport people travel.
Probably ilikestealingducks uses numbers for cyclist-deaths only. And in that case, the numbers may be about right – but Dutch cycle about 15 times as much as Americans do (may be 10 or 20, I don’t have the exact numbers in my head), so having 4 times as many deaths is really a low number, not a high one.
Retrying: Probably ilikestealingducks uses numbers for cyclist-deaths only. And in that case, the numbers may be about right – but Dutch cycle about 15 times as much as Americans do (may be 10 or 20, I don’t have the exact numbers in my head), so having 4 times as many deaths is really a low number, not a high one.
You can’t have this change without a massive change in the US culture of work, among many other things.
I was amused by your comment that you were too scared to ride a bike in Chicago. But then I suppose you were led around to all of the high traffic places that need ‘infrastructure’ for biking, so it might seem scary to newcomers. There are plenty of low-traffic streets in Chicago that are safer for biking, although no one ever mentions those, because right now, for the activists, it’s all about ‘infrastructure’.
As you noticed, though, bicycle infrastructure in the United States is not the same as in the Netherlands (inferior designs, painted lanes, bidirectional on auto streets, etc.). What you may not realize is why.
The road network in the U.S. is built out, so for cities, it’s all about getting federal money to ‘convert’ parts of roads, ‘paint’ and shoehorn in bike lanes on streets built for automobiles TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL SAFER when they ride a bike in these lanes. See, it’s not about actual safety, it’s the PERCEPTION of safety.
Which encourages more people to ride bikes, and when that happens, the ‘herd effect’ is actually supposed to make things safer (because the more people that ride bikes, the more car traffic slows down/watches for them).
So, it’s cities getting new money from the feds to pay for a big psychological experiment.
I lived in Chicago from 1997 through 2003. I think what is going on in downtown Chicago for bicycle infrastructure is every bit as amazing as New York, people who do not know American big cities don’t realize how difficult this is to do. At the same time it is possible to identify the potential infrastructure that should be built, minimum cost for maximum benefit. One has to survey and map out low use traffic streets and identify the best places to link potential bicycle traffic between these areas and places where people need and want to go. By focusing resources on these links we can rebuild intersections as needed or bridge and tunnel for expressways and railroads since we limited the places to the best place to make our investment instead of just spending for an idea and also there is a real idea of priority based on real data instead of opinion. This would also be of real benefit to pedestrians and disabled people to increase mobility. I include a link to such a survey in San Jose which is built up very car oriented, as much as Los Angeles CA, and you can see even here this is not only possible but is the most cost efficient way of building up a network that would build up a bicycle riding population. In most cities just getting 10% to ride bikes had a real impact on city traffic. The video is very long but it is a college lecture you will have the gist of it before it is half way through when Q & A starts (30 min).
I was born in the Netherlands and got my driver’s license when I was 18 years old. When you take driver’s lessons in the Netherlands, you are taught the rights of the bicycle riders and how to coexist. In the US they go every which way: against the traffic, wrong side of the road, zig-zagging through traffic, no wonder we have so many bike accidents here.Every time I go back to visit, I hop on a bicycle and feel free and safe, because everyone is adhering to the traffic rules.
There are several reasons why this is the case here in the U.S:
1) There is basically no dedicated space for bicycles, they are expected to just mingle with car traffic, which moves much quicker, and is given benefit in every way by law and social perception. When there is dedicated space, it is small, poorly designed and usually just painted on the road, which lends no feeling of safety to those using it. In many cases, it actually makes things more dangerous, because it is poorly designed and puts people on bicycles in dangerous positions, particularly at intersections.
2) Driver education is expensive, many people don’t get it, and it really only includes how to interact with other drivers on the roads. Once you get your license, you are never required to refresh that information unless you let your license expire – if you continue to renew it, you never have to think about it again, so of course people forget things, and never learn about new laws or policies. Most violations are also not enforced – only ones that cause major damage, and even those are often just overlooked if the person driving cooperates and was not drunk. People involved in collisions with cars while not driving are often penalized for their own injuries because they failed to protect themselves well enough (no high-vis, helmets, etc), even though they were not at fault for the collision, but rather the person was driving recklessly or was simply not paying attention.
In essence, it is a case of “If everyone is going to be against me anyway, I’m just going to do whatever I want or need to do to survive.”
The situation in the Netherlands is 100% the opposite. There is much dedicated space for bicycle traffic, people are educated on how to use public space while walking, cycling and driving, and the law supports the most vulnerable people most strongly, so people feel free to travel by whatever means they want and know they have a general right to be safe. This is not the case at all in the U.S.
I should add that, in both cases (The U.S. and The Netherlands), the situation was DESIGNED to be the way it is. It didn’t just happen by chance, but the people making laws and arranging society intentionally made things they way they are.
90% of the two wheelers in america think they own the road…..even when there
is a bike lane and u have two 2 wheelers one rides in the lane and the other outside the lane…..they want ride behind each other in the bike lane…..period..
From this ‘ingredients’ I can’t make a meal.
I agree,butmy biggest problem with this blog is the negation of helmets. As a nurse I have seen the effects of a child simply falling off his bike without head protection. Not pretty and a sensless waste of a life. Everyone on a bike should be wearing a helmet no matter where they are riding.
Never heard of somebody here (The Netherlands) hurted his head while riding a bike, and close to everbody is riding bike daily. Of course that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t occur. It means that the number of accidents on this point is very very few.
In The Netherlands more people drown than die from a bicycle crash, so from a personal safety point of view it makes more sense to wear a life jacket on a bike than a helmet.
Betty, you are free to wear a helmet for any activity you chose. I chose not. Let us both respect each other’s choices.
A little kid wearing a helmet is more frequently seen from a Dutch perspective as they are not yet knowing to put their hand up to protect their heads, their skulls are still developing and they do not usually know how to ride a bike yet at 6 years old. Though even babies in the Netherlands do not wear a helmet because they ride on their parents bicycle, and the parents are exert riders.
Everyone in the English speaking countries insists on wearing helmets, because it would protect if you have a bicycle accident. But, we also have other limbs, like knees and elbows. In an accident one could fall on these limbs too. So, why doesn’t nobody wear protective gear on their knees and elbows? Even people on a skateboard use them. And a skateboard goes much slower than a bicycle.
Marty is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. If you are going to make such a statement back it up with facts. You could Snopes it and find it is way off base I am sure. In most states is is legal to ride outside the bike lane line, but usually not a good idea. A bike will never ever win an argument with a car. We bikers need to remember that fact.
I am 55 and spent the first half of my life cycling around London and the second half cycling (and driving) around the U.S mostly in the Boston area. The biggest difference between the U.S and England(and most but not all of Europe) is that in England we know how to cycle and drive PROPERLY! Driving instruction in the U.S. is a joke. My driving test took 10 minutes! My son was in the car when his friend took and past his test despite the fact that he went through a red light! I watched my local Police station give cycling lessons to kids and it was terrible, and some of what they told them to do was just dangerous. I have friends who have bikes with 24 gears and they haven’t moved out of 5th gear since they got them. I see cyclist hoping on and off the sidewalk, wizzing through traffic lights with barely a glance, going against traffic, going the wrong way up a one way street, posers in the full gear racing down the public bike path terrorising the other users.
Car drivers don’t look out for bikes. They rarely indicate their intentions. They text, phone, eat , drink, put make up on, shave. I once saw a young women driving with a sandwich in one hand a drink in the other, one foot OUT THE WINDOW and steering the the car with her KNEE!! If there were PROPER instructions on how to ride and drive and people did both RESPONSIBLY, and if people stopped using their cars as an extension of their home or office and their bikes as an “Urban assault vehicle” or dodgem wheels, MAYBE it would be better for ALL.
While I love how cycling is respected in The Netherlands and wish that we had more designated bike lanes in the US (I can’t ride to work without taking my life in my hands) or that we didn’t have such love affairs with our cars– It’s kind of funny, I found that being a pedestrian was not respected in The Netherlands. I spent a great deal of my time jumping out of the way of bikes even when I should have had the right of way (such as crossing the street with the light or at a stop sign). And the sidewalks in some of the older parts of Amsterdam are very narrow and your only choice is to walk in the bike path if you are walking and talking with someone else (although we try to avoid that). But I don’t want to complain too much as we don’t respect pedestrians in the US either. I just thought it was funny.
Bikes have right of way in the Netherlands. And that makes sense because you can stop walking instantly but two narrow wheels moving at speed take much more distance to stop.
That’s how I feel about the idiots that step off the curb in traffic and think that a 2 ton truck can stop on a dime. Remember when we were taught to LOOK BOTH WAYS BEFORE CROSSING. Now it’s go ahead step into traffic if YA get hit you can sue! The driver has to stop for you. Physics people. Stupidity always goes against the laws of nature. Look both ways FIRST, then step off the curb, please!
Reblogged this on Move for Change and the Brooklyn Culture Jam and commented:
We interrupt our coverage of the dire problems of our climate to repost this article on American bicycle culture from a Dutch point of view. And in a way, this is also an article about reaction to climate change–the Dutch and the Danes and many of their European counterparts get around just fine on a bicycle for most of their daily tasks. Their elected officials take cyclists (and pedestrians) seriously, and realize it’s better for their respective countries if they aren’t using up fossil fuel to get everyone from point A to B.
Let me try to express some limiting factors why the US is so behind in cycling commuting culture. One major factor I suggest is urban sprawl, how spread out our cities are. I live up on a steep foothill section of Utah valley. The shopping centers are miles away and with not suburban infrastructure for cycling, the decision just makes sense to own a car. Just to perform basic errands like going to the bank, postoffice, grocery store; the distance is just too much to cover. A second limiting factor is how out of shape the majority of Americans are. There are minorities of healthy cultures, but the majority of US is just too fat and lazy to consider biking more than just novelty and horseplay. My final suggestion is environmental apathy. The general public just doesn’t concern themselves with how polluting their 4X4 is. Just a few thoughts here to chew on I guess.
Erica part of the problem these day is the republicans are trying cut out all financial aid for biking in the US and they will probably have their way since they control congress now. It is part of the omnibus bill for transportation coming up sometime this year. Very sad state of affairs, but not surprising.
Admiration from a longtime NYC cyclist. the author is too polite to point out here that American drivers purchase something other than an automobile–they purchase a sense of entitlement. And since very few people in the US are using bicycles as commuting vehicles, their empathy lines up with the feelings of the drivers. NY almost never prosecutes a driver for manslaughter when a pedestrian or cyclist dies in an accident, regardless of the level of fault. Too many of our law enforcement officers live in car-centric suburbs and have never dealt with city traffic from a cyclist point of view.
Yawn. Yet another “Life is better in Europe than America” rant. Isn’t it rather provincial and narrow minded to assert that Dutch cycling culture is better than American cycling culture, merely because they differ? Please. How about some “live and let live”?
Actually, it’s better simply because in the Netherlands, anyone can ride a bike if/when/where they want and not worry about having to fight for their lives every minute, or about having to fruitlessly explain and explain how they did nothing wrong if they get hurt by someone else, or about how it’s a perfectly normal thing to do, and not just something you do if you’re too poor to own a car, etc…
On the other hand, they ride dorky, slow bikes, and they pay very high income and gasoline taxes to pay for all of that cycling infrastructure. Who is to say which is better?
Dear James, in 2011 died 32376 people in traffic in the US. The population then was about 308 million people. That makes 1681 per million that died in traffic. Here in the Netherlands where the speed limit is 130 km/h, died 627 people in 2011 in traffic on a population of 16,7 million. That means 37,5 per million. You are right that we pay a higher income tax than in the US. In the Netherlands we like to spend money on quality road systems.
I find our dorky in the U.S. No one needs to Win or compete. The costs? Bike needs cost so little. Yes, they do it better. Intelligently.
I’d like to see a piece on Dutch cycling from a US perspective. For example, from Amsterdam, how hard is it to find a beautiful road for an 80 Km training ride with 1500 meters of climbing?
Finding the 80 km road is no problem with the inter-city bike paths that have no speed limit for Human Power BTW, but finding 1500 m of climbing in 80 km of most of the Netherlands is a touch difficult. I understand there are some hills in the eastern parts of the country but no mountains. So a big part of your “complaint” is due to geography, not infrastructure.
To Opus the Poet: You miss my point. I am not “complaining.” Rather, I am pointing out that cycling means different things to different people. Cleary, from your avatar, your style of cycling differs from mine. That’s fine. To each his/her own. I watched the video, the gist of which was: cycling in the US is different from cycling in the Netherlands, and that’s bad. Well, it’s only bad if you insist on judging cycling from a certain perspective. From other perspectives, US cycling is good. For example, I can ride out my door in Washington, DC and, without much effort, ride rolling country roads (not bike paths clogged with slow riders) at 20-40 mph. Sounds like I couldn’t do that if I lived in Amsterdam. If that’s all I care about, then I’m better off in Washington, DC than in the Amsterdam. I’ve been to the Netherlands, and quite liked it, but I’m not so narrow minded to say that it is better or worse than other places. It’s just different.
And you can do the same thing in the Netherlands on safe, segregated infrastructure that prioritizes bicycles over motor vehicles, except for the terrain. As many people have pointed out the land around Amsterdam is rather flat and doesn’t have a lot of climbing. What you can get are long stretches at a steady high speed, and headwinds. There is a long history of Dutch winners of the polkadot jersey in the TdF, so it isn’t like you can’t get a good training ride going in the Netherlands.
Take it easy James the Netherlands has been very hard at work on their cycling infrastructure since the late 1970’s so they are “ahead” of most of Europe. They have a bicycle commuting culture” that is just starting here. The Dutch like the Germans like to pay attention to detail and like to be understated about things and may come off as critical if you are not familiar with that. I an more familiar with Germans but all in all he is been fairly positive seeing some real progress. He is really on our side. America had a love affair with bicycling just before the automobile, you can read Mark Twain’s humorous work about mastering the bicycle as an adult. – Get a bicycle. You will not regret it. If you live – “Taming the Bicycle” by Samuel Clemens. It is about time we return to our bicycling roots.
Now if Mark’s intention had indeed been just another bashing of all things American that would have been very tiresome to say the least. These days it seems as if the whole world is running to blame America for everything wrong. As I read it, Mark has had lots of very positive encounters with people (cyclists) in America, and seeing their plight in sometimes less than perfect circumstances, why not explain how it could be so much more pleasant?
Anyway, the blog posts and videos are self explanatory, I think, so please take a look around!
Not sure if I missed it in the article…but cycling in the Netherlands is not only easy (it is all flat land there), owning a car in the Netherlands is very expensive…therefore usually only one car per family and the rest of the family travels by bike or public transit.
Oh man, life is SO much better in Europe. But you would not have any idea. It’s ridiculous how in any negative comparison for US the americans have the need to step up and reply.
LIVE AND LET LIVE is the atitude of dr
ivers in countries with a good cycling infra structure. LIVE AND LET DIE for the countries without.
I do not own “bike clothes” and bike because it is fun and pleasant exercise. As an American, I had always felt somewhat embarrassed not being the lycra wearing racer/serious athlete-on-a-mission- to-hell type. Until I saw this film. No more. I will just embrace my inner European and feel much better. And probably bike more. I may even try a suitable skirt. Thanks for the life line!
You got it Jane!
If you want to wear a skirt, just wear bike shorts or other form fitting shorts underneath
We women of the netherlands even cycle with high heels on, wearing a dress, on our way to a party 🙂
I’m sure Holland is Utopia. Especially Amsterdam with it’s huge population of drug users.
In light of the fact that most of the passengers on flight MH17 that was shot down by missile over Eastern Ukraine were in fact from the Netherlands you should retract your words. I offer my condelences to all the families that were made victim of this senseless tragedy and to the Netherslands that has borne the brunt of it all.
On the off chance you’re interested in facts rather than stereotypes:
– Adult lifetime cannabis use in the Netherlands is less than half that of the U.S.A.
– Same goes for the annual cannabis use.
We Americans take everything to such an extreme, is what I am thinking. It is tiresome.
The Dutch know when to end a war, they signed their peace treaty with marijuana.
Talk about figures and not about crab you might have from the neighbours. Do some research, know the figures and you will find out that the percentage of Dutch people being addicted on drugs is way lower than the percentage of US citizens being addicted on drugs. Like that other crab story that was going around about euthanasia. Here in the Netherlands it was said that all old people were killed here, because it would be too expansive to let them live and take care off. Yeah … that story was told by a US politicain.
No doubt there are plenty of wise people living in the US, but you need to be aware of what you say. Good luck in your research.
Amsterdam eithnits huge population of Drugs users? Fact is that on average there are less then in almost all other major western (no I didn’t say ‘American’ so hold your horses) cities. Where did you get this wisdom? FOX news? Their editor in chief was bashing away at Amsterdam without ever having been there, and knowingly ignoring all scientific facts and numbers. It’s sad when friends need to put eachother away like that…
the ENTIRE country of the Netherlands is barely 1/10 the size of one of our states (California)! the US is an enormous country connected throughout with roads, highways, freeways, tolls roads, streets, boulevards and avenues and roads etc, etc etc. Bikes do NOT have the priority when it comes to travel because our States, Cities and towns are far apart physically and bikes would be completely impractical, generally speaking. When autos have priority the infrastructure and engineering of a city is built around that concept. Your complaints are completely out of context and fail to appreciate the reasons why bikes have such a low priority on the roads.
It’s true that quiet some cities in an enormous country like the US are more distance than in small country like the Netherlands. If you think that the size of the country has something to do with having a successful transportation system which includes save bike lanes, then I suggest start to make separate bike lanes in cities of the size of Amsterdam or smaller. A lot of trips are less than 10 km, which is a nice distance to bike and relax. The majority of bikers don’t go out of the cities. For distances bigger than that in the Netherlands we consider to go by car, or train. In case of traffic jams in the city a trip by car might be more stressful and might last longer than a trip by bike.
Half of all trips in the US is 3 miles or less, yet about 90% of those is done by car. Doesn’t that seem utterly ridiculous to you?
If you really think US cycling is “bad”, you should try make a documentary in Romania. Believe me if you cand cycle in Romania you my friend are the best cycler in the world !
Please ignore or lower the volume!
So, In your idea you won’t complain in a restaurant if it was serving bad food, because there are always restaurants which serve worse stuff.
A winner is some one that will take lessons out of critism, a loser is some one who is defending himself.
There are hazards, but at least there are no moral hazards.
I live in Denver and ride a (comparatively) compact bakfiets for everyday transportation. Infrastructure is very mixed here but cyclists are common enough that motorists are generally aware and respectful of us. The metro area is comprised of a fairly strict street grid superimposed on the landscape and, while we are technically on the plains, Denver is situated on the geologically tumultuous western edge of the plains at the base of the Rocky Mountains and cycling headlong across the street grid is brutal. Therefore, the network of greenway trails which follow nearly every stream/waterway in the metro area makes travel across town a much more manageable elevation change. Once off the trail network, it is often preferable to weave through side streets to follow geologic contours rather than slog up and down the established street bike routes, making the establishment of bike infrastructure to meet the range of routes commonly used by cyclists much more daunting. I don’t mind sharing the unmarked road in neighborhoods.
However, cyclists here take liberties which don’t foster goodwill with the greater population. The main offense I’ve seen is complete disregard for basic traffic laws. It’s about 1/2 mile from my house to the nearest greenway trail with six 4-way stop residential intersections to reach it. Motorists regularly reach the intersection well ahead of me and wait for me to cross expecting me to not stop. I at least slow down significantly and make positive eye contact and get gestured confirmation before proceeding first but sometimes they don’t even look at me so I stop. This is sadly confusing for the motorists because they are accustomed to cyclists blazing through stop signs without so much as a glance up to check for traffic. I witness these cyclists almost daily and motorists understandably getting pissed over it.
One comment about costumes too. I do not own a cycling costume or any part of one. I ride in my everyday clothes (blue collar work wear, business casual, whatever is required by the destination). That said, I would refrain from passing judgment on those who choose to wear special clothing. I must say that keeping my wallet in a pocket in the back of my synthetic fast-drying shirt would be a nice change from its usual home in the back pocket of my jeans while I ride upright. Also, the crotch of my work jeans always wears through long before the knees or other high wear areas become too worn to wear to a nice restaurant (we have a relaxed dress code here). Cycling costumes, just like denim work wear or lightweight twill office wear, are speciality garments designed to address the unique demands and uncomfortable aspects of a particular activity. If you have the time and money to maintain sperate wardrobes and switch back and forth between them through the day, then do it!
Davis, California, is one of the U.S. cities shown in the video. Its a campus town with an estimated population of 65,999 people and the student enrollment in the fall of 2013 at the University of California at Davis was 34,155. The bicycle commuting mode share from Census surveys was 19% in 2012.
A person in opposition to bike lanes being installed in his neighborhood of Los Angeles stated that this is not Amsterdam and that you can’t put bike lanes everywhere. Hmm, Davis is one of the best examples of what can be achieved for bicycling infrastructure in a U.S. city.
The city of Davis has a land area of 9.89 square miles. There are 52 miles of bike paths, 50 bikes of bike lanes and 17 bridges and tunnels for bicycles. This infrastructure is not the quality typically found in the Netherlands, but the quantity makes it convenient to bicycle anywhere you would want to go within the city.
Scaling that proportion of bike lanes/paths/bridges/tunnels to the 468.67 square miles of land in the city of Los Angeles–population 3.8 million–would translate to 2,369 miles of bike lanes, 2,464 miles of bike paths and 805 bridges or tunnels for bicycles. The 2010 city of Los Angeles bike plan has a goal of 1,680 miles of bike lanes and paths to be completed in 35 years.
Apples and oranges, buddy! You said so yourself, Davis is a campus town that maxes out at 100,000 when school’s in session. Los Angeles is a smog-choked, car-dependent megalopolis of 4 million. You can’t just scale up the solutions from one setting and expect them to translate perfectly to the other.
I’m not suggesting there isn’t a lot that LA could do to beef up its infrastructure, but suggesting that they should be able to do it because look at Davis is either disingenuous or sloppy thinking.
Or maybe you’d enjoy biking the shoulder of the 110?
If you want bike infrastructures then go to another country. What the US needs to do is get rid of those damn bike lanes so they could make another lane for drivers. Nobody wants to deal.with a damn bicyclist. Get off the road and go to another country! Those of us who have to travel 40-50 miles to work don’t want to show up to work sweaty from bicycling to work. Nor do we want to have to wake up 2 hours earlier cause they built another bike lane which cause more traffic build up. Get rid of the bike lanes! And get real! It is for leisure!
I would try finding work closer to where you live or move closer to work, you are really torqued off about it. Being pissed off all the time will wear you down over time do something about it when you can. It cost 8 to 10 million just to widen a two lane to four lane in Florida which is not a high cost state. For those of use that live in town cycliing can be feasible and getting short trips by bike and shorter on foot by spending a little on pedestrain and cuts down on congestion without have to take a lot peoples property and spend a lot of our tax money away to pave a wider road where it doesn’t fit. We should have choice where it makes sense, no one wants to take your car or that long commute.
There are some people that really seriously need to have their cars taken away, like the OP for this chain, but in general, nobody is trying to take cars away from people as a whole, just convince them to use cars a lot less (as in only where there is no other alternative, not just when cars are a bit easier or more convenient). Seriously the real trick is to make bikes more convenient, not make cars less convenient (except by comparison). That is what really good bike infrastructure does, make bikes much more convenient than cars.
In Holland, some people will bike to the train station, where they leave their bike. At the other end of the train ride, they pick up a bike that they leave at the train station, which they then take to work. Obviously this doesn’t work well if you need to carry a lot of tools, but it works well for office jobs. And you can either relax or get work on your computer while you’re on the train.
Yep,when I studied in Utrecht I had a bike at each end.Old ones so nobody would steal them
Judging from my experience, intermixing bikes with trains only slows you down. At distances up to 50 kms, riding a bike alone is faster than using a bike and a train.
But this is in Russia, Holland may be a different story.de
@Denis: My train ride is 35 kilometers. It takes 20 minutes. Add a few minutes to wait for the train (going every 15 minutes), that’s still a speed of over 70 km/h. If you can beat that just cycling, you should give Tony Martin some cycling lessons.
Oh, bother. In Russia, suburban trains never make 105 km/h avg, they can hardly even reach that speed. Sorry if I offended your sense of commuting.
Half of all trips in the US is 3 miles or less, yet about 90% of those is done by car. In addition to that, research has shown bicycles are far more space-efficient than private motor traffic, making car the first category that should give in in congested urban areas:
I also suggest you look up the average commuting distance in your country – it’s probably a lot lower than you think.
I read your article and watched the video. It has some great points,but you also seemed to miss or just didn’t want to put it out there. That people who read bikes can also be idiots it’s not solely the drivers fault. So to claim that we don’t see people on bikes are false. I move out of the way for them all the time,but they still need to abide by the laws set for whilst on a bike. Yes we need to change up the bike lane thing,but I can tell you right now. I live in Seattle one of the top bike places per capital in the U.S. and putting a real bike line where there was also going to be a rail system and cars was poorly implemented.
To those people not content with bike infrastructure in the US, you should really come to Russia. Two years ago, bike lanes started to appear at random spots from time to time here (they’d been never heard of before), but soon they wear out and they’re never renewed. BTW, they are always ‘constructed’ from paint and plastic, and they always reside on sidewalks (interrupted by every road crossing), because they are better ignored by pedestrians rather than neglected by motorists.
Recent additions to the Traffic rules introduced much more to regulations concerning bikes, new signs and stuff, and now the Rules look like something from another planet compared to reality.
Sydney, Australia cyclist here. I commute and ride recreationally, both on my “racing” road bike. I use my racing bike for commuting because to have any chance of surviving on the roads, I need to be able to keep up with traffic as best I can.
I’ve cycled in Holland and the Dutch are phenomenally polite as both cyclists and drivers.
This does not extend to the US. For cyclists at least. As a pedestrian I find drivers far more courteous than cyclists who I find to be arrogant and quite frankly dangerous. I was almost knocked clean over by a cyclist running a red light at over 15mph.
Until cyclists are properly trained and regulated (as they seem to be in Holland?) they will not be welcome on any road upon which I walk, be that in the US or at home in London
When you have to be crazy to ride a bike, you get (mostly) crazies riding bikes. If you want better cyclists you need to provide better facilities for cycling. That way the sane people will swamp out the crazy ones.
Can’t say I agree entirely. Some cyclists stick to the law and act much like the Dutch do. Others behave like maniacs and blacken the name of their fellows.
Cyclists need to prove themselves as responsible road users just as much as the city has any responsibility to provide an infrastructure for them to cycle more safely.
I do feel I have to dampen the expectations about Dutch road politeness a bit here, really, for prospective cyclists coming to so-called “cycle heaven”. I am Dutch, so I include myself here ;-). But really, the Dutch are forced into politeness by the infrastructure. Left to themselves, they are much more impolite and rude than the British, let alone the Americans. And all Dutchmen by default think laws and rules apply especially to the others, not to themselves. And beware if you start cycling in Amsterdam: if you innocently stop for a red light, you might get shouted at by cyclists coming from behind.
Reblogged this on birdsong dwellings and commented:
interesting observations. i hope to get to the Netherlands and a few other European countries to do the reverse comparison. And to experience biker/ cyclist heaven!!
I think it’s striking that the comments on a lot of articles on cycling in the USA, this one included, reflect the situation on the road. Drivers don’t seem happy at all with cyclists, and cyclists aren’t happy with driver behaviour. This seems to be recurring all over the world, with the exception of places where they are completely separated. All kinds of reasons will be mentioned, but in the end the bottom line is that they are both unhappy with a situation that will result in conflicts.
Not the driver or the cyclist are the problem here. Instead of blaming each other a solution can be found, and oh surprise, it already exists.
As most of you know, and Mark tries to point out on this blog all the time, the Netherlands, Denmark and some other places have chosen a solution that minimizes the conflict, and thus the tone of the reactions on blogs and newspaper articles reflects this.
Often people think it would be way too expensive to build for cycling, but it has been proven time and again that it is actually a lot cheaper than building ever more freeways, gyms, parking lots, and taking measures against illnesses caused by lack of excercise.
I live near Detroit, and cycling here is very hazardous. There are very few bicycle lanes anywhere. As a college student in Kalamazoo, my bicycle was my only transportation besides the bus, but I got knocked off my bike by a car when crossing a side street while on the bike path that had the right of way, and almost got hit more than once trying to turn left from the left-hand turn lane in regular traffic. That said, while I was totally cognizant of having to obey the same traffic laws as cars do when my bike was my way of getting from A to B, now that I drive everywhere I am always astonished by how many cyclists do not do the same. They run red lights. They do not stop at stop signs. They ride on the wrong side of the road or the wrong way up one-way streets. It’s no wonder that traffic planners do not take bicyclists seriously if bicyclists do not obey the law.
I was going to say after reading your comment about planners and cyclists, “this person must not ride much anymore to have that bias..” and then I re-read it quickly and sure enough “now that I drive everywhere”
Luckily, car drivers primarily follow laws very closely. They almost never speed, never go past thick white lines so that pedestrians or cyclists (riding on a sidewalk due to a lack of infra and high speed limits) can easily pass through any intersecting point.
Drivers rarely get in an accident because they drive safely and following laws, drive very cautiously and driving is a very relaxing and enjoyable experience, just like all car commercials, with drivers thoroughly enjoying their commute, never experiencing delays from traffic accidents (because they rarely happen). They don’t drive under the influence of any drugs and they are incredibly clean for the environment to add–not to mention incredibly efficient in terms of space..they are basically the size of bicycles and don’t require much space for parking. Did I mention how great cars are?
Some of the reason cycling is considered recreational in the US vs a commuting option is simply the length of the commute. I live 23 miles from my current workplace by highway — when bike paths / streets that do not have a 55 mi/hr speed limit (+) are used, it’s closer to 27 miles one way.
That said, I have biked to work a few times (in the summer or fall — as opposed to winter when it is snowing/frigid or spring when several of the roads/paths I need to use are flooded) and it takes me about 1.5 hours if I push myself; there are several hills to deal with along the way, and anything I want to have with me at work (a lunch, clean clothes to wear while at work) must be carried with me along the way.
Once I am in the office, I then have the option of another 27-mile ride home, or catching a bus back. The bus heading toward my house leaves early enough in the day that to make 8 hours in the office, I must be on my bike headed to the office before 5 a.m. The most direct bike-acceptable route from my office to where the bus picks up requires riding 3 miles on the shoulder of a 55 mi/hr highway & crossing 2 sets of railroad tracks.
Helmets are necessary – and in many places, required by law – in the U.S. because cycling IS dangerous here. I agree that there should be many more people cycling for transportation and that cities should do a lot more to make that easier and safer. But I’m surprised to see you criticising the helmets. I’m also a bit confused at your apparent approval only of “upright” bicycles. Recumbents are definitely better for the human body, and especially if we’re going to get more people on bikes than just the most young and fit and healthy ones, then getting more recumbents out there is surely the way to go. I, for one, would never last five minutes on an upright bike, with my back pain and fibromyalgia. And so, so many people have similar issues.
By “upright” I think he meant the rider is relaxed and upright, rather than hunched over the handlebar trying to race traffic.
I am surprised that he first criticizes that cycling is only used for recreation and then criticizes that cycling is used to get quickly from one point to another. Cycling is always dangerous whether you are alone or in traffic. In Norway where the infrastructure in most cities are quite good, significantly more people are hurt while biking than in traffic each year. In most cases due to not wearing a helmet.
Should biking help the environment we must focus on biking infrastructure in traffic and we should embrace the safe and quick way of biking. Hence, the “best case” should here be the danish or dutch infrastructure in an american biking-culture.
Mark doesn’t criticizes people for using their bikes to get quickly from A to B. There’s nothing wrong with that. He orbserves, however, that in the U.S., compared to the Netherlands, there are disportionally many young adult males on fast bikes hurrying throught heavy motorized traffic, which is symptomatic for inadequate infrastructure.
The fact that there is no real cycling infrastructure in many parts of the US means that a lot of people have to make their own decisions when it comes to how to cycle. For instance, the place where I live is scenic and tourist-y, with lots of cyclists in the summertime.
We have a bike lane in some areas, but not in others. What do cyclists do when they see the end of their bike lane? Some choose to get onto the sidewalk (a much safer choice if you ask me, and usually my preference), some choose to remain in the street but stay to the side, and yet others decide to just blend in with traffic. They get right in the middle of the lane, and act as if they were in a car. They stop at red lights, they yield, they stop for pedestrians.
I’m not saying any of this is bad, but in a place with high-speed traffic and highways, a group of cyclists going 20 or 30 miles an hour in a V-formation in the middle of the lane is a huge danger and distraction when they are flanked on either end by cars going 50 or 60 miles. It’s terribly inconvenient and unsafe.
And these people are truly convinced that they are road traffic just like a car or motorcycle! One time I was sitting at a stop sign, talking to my mother on the phone because I was lost and I was trying to figure out how to get to my destination. It was late and dark, on an unlit back road (with no bike lane). All of a sudden I see a person walking up to my car. I did not see another car approach, and there were no houses in the area. It was a bit eerie.
The person ended up being this irate woman with a bicycle, who had apparently been beeping her little bicycle horn and when I didn’t hear her, came up to knock on my window and tell me rudely to “MOVE IT!” I was so taken aback that I just made a turn without yet knowing where I was going…
I was so shocked I didn’t even think to ask her why she didn’t simply go around me. It was as if she truly thought she were part of traffic and needed to wait for me to go before making a turn. I had been sitting there a full five minutes and I think it was apparent that I was lost… How long was she sitting there behind me in the dark?
I must say, I am boggled at your comment criticising bike riders who “choose” to actually follow traffic laws. You do realize, don’t you, that riding in the street and following all the same rules as cars is the law for bicycles in the U.S.? Everywhere in the U.S., as far as I am aware. It is illegal to ride on the sidewalk, and unsafe for (ands rude to) pedestrians.
As a driver, you need to be aware of bikes around you in traffic, just like you need to be aware of other cars. Share the road. Also, learn the law, and stop complaining about people who follow it!
Regarding traffic laws, in all the states I know of, cyclists are governed at the municipal level. In my city (a close urban suburb of Denver) cyclists may choose whether to ride on the street or the sidewalk but must follow the established traffic laws for motor vehicles or pedestrians reflected by their choice. For example, if you crash into the side of a car that is pulling onto the street from a parking lot or driveway while riding on the street, the motorist is at fault for pulling into incoming traffic. However, if you smash into the same car while riding on the sidewalk, you will be faulted for not yielding to a vehicle entering the roadway (ironically, around here pedestrians have right of way when crossing the street but vehicles have right of way when crossing the sidewalk). This can get confusing, especially at intersections where most people don’t actually know the actual protocol for pedestrians and motorists and also have to determine which cyclists are motorists and which are acting add pedestrians when we’re all in the middle of the intersection at the same time. However, my 5 year old son had been riding his own bike for transport since he was 2 and I still prefer him to ride on the sidewalk because of his invisible size. Since my bakfiets doesn’t fit on many of the narrow sidewalks here, we ride parallel and he is thoroughly schooled in the difference between pedestrian and vehicular etiquette and laws.
You bring up a good point – that in the U.S., most people have no idea what about 2/3 of the traffic law is. They basically know that while driving, they’re supposed to follow the speed limit, stop behind the stop signs, and let pedestrians cross the road at marked crosswalks (none of which they actually do most of the time), but beyond that (and basically everything related to non-cars especially), everything is this nebulous fog of nothingness. Once people start riding bikes, they tend to look into the law more just for self-preservation, but we have terrible education here when it comes to traffic law. That’s a big piece of what needs to change for things to improve here. The three basics:
1.) Law and enforcement that supports the vulnerable
2.) Education on the law
3.) Infrastructure that helps to avoid conflict rather than create it
The U.S. as a whole does terribly in all three areas.
She should have been a police officer you should pull over to get directions, or at least put your flashers on. Also in most states bicycles are considered vehicles and required to follow traffic laws, bicycles are only not allowed on limited access roads, interstates, which have a minimum speed 40 mph and vehicles must have a minimum power rating. I will bet she has a legal case to have a right to use her bike on that road, do you know the law in your state? Also what if it was someone going down this unlighted road not paying attention while you are parked at a stop sign, that is why you should pull over someplace.
Better not come to Mexico City, Mexico City seems to have a future in cycling but still I am sure we are doing, and will keep on doing it very bad.
Cyclists are a bunch of retards that can’t afford REAL transportation.
I have 2 cars, both purchased from new. I also have 3 bicycles. I choose to use a bicycle. The only application here of the word “retard” applies to the thought process of the person who wrote the comment!
i’m pretty sure most of these type of comments are just trolls. just like the ones living under bridges, it’s best to ignore them.
Only a rich “fat-ass” would make a remark of this nature; but there is hope; y’re young enough to gain some better judgment.
I think the” problem” is the comparison of the Netherlands and the US in the first place. The Netherlands is tiny and demographically compact, whereas the US is huge, spread out and constructed for rapid transportation by the car. This will not change…just the design of the car will change.
It is dangerous to encourage tiny bikers to compete for highway space with all manner of enormous vehicles…regardless of political motive, pleasure, etc.
I am constantly in fear of ruining a life because of some biker darting in and out of traffic. Biking should have separate lanes and be limited to where it does not interfere with automobile traffic…not the reverse!
There…I said it…the Emperor has no clothes!!
There are parts of the USA in and near big cities that have the same density, as Europe some even more. That fact is not going to change too. In a city we would like to be able to go outside, cities are meant for people and when a car is driven rules are set so you don’t endanger people’s lives. You should be thinking about what if I hit someone if I am driving. When I was driving a 13 ton 40 foot bus I was aways thinking, what if I hit a little car or SUV as well as people and bicyclists on crowded city streets. There are limited access roads called expressways, but we can’t afford the one’s we built with what we pay for them, the gas tax highway fund is due to go in the red this year and by Zeus we will never raise that road tax but build that expensive new wide road! I don’t want to be banned off the quiet residental road in my neighborhood with narrow streets and 20 or 25 mph speed limits, it is a pleasure to cross the street or ride a bike and we all get along, thank you leave us to our shared roads out of your government car endorsed plan!
Most of what you say here could almost word-for-word be said about the United Kingdom. The maleness, the sense of being in a hurry, the lack of diversity among cyclists, the funny clothes….
The Davis comparison could probably translate to Cambridge, or to a lesser extent Oxford, Bristol or York, all university towns. It might also translate to a handful of other places which are not especially student centres such as Gosport, or to a lesser extent Portsmouth.
I do think however one of your final remarks is off the mark – you can’t compare “US Drivers” with London. That city is a bit special in that sense, in that driving standards are probably more impatient, and less courteous, than almost anywhere else I know.
Except New York, where I would say from pedestrian experience things are every bit as bad as they are in London.
Or Nice, where I lived one summer a few years ago, where I found that people were even more spectacularly rude than they are in New York, whether in cars or on foot.
Cycling in Norway, are even worse and more dangerous than in the USA.
I lived in Davis 30 years ago and when I visited recently it seems like it is less bike friendly now than it was then because there’s more traffic. Now I live in Vancouver, Washington which is really a Portland, Oregon suburb but lacks bike infrastructure that is more common in Portland. Sad conservative politicians would rather pet a rattlesnake than insult their oil industry supporters by helping cyclists.
Love our trail in Indy. Bike sharing is coming soon too.
One big problem in the US (speaking from the perspective of a Brooklyn resident) is that cyclist do not obey traffic rules, and the car drivers do not defer to cyclists. My experience from riding in the Netherlands on several extended stays there is that Dutch drivers are very aware of cyclists, and defer to them, especially on multiple use streets for pedestrians, cyclists, cars, buses, and trucks.
YES! This is exactly my problem with cyclists. I live in Minneapolis, and our Twin Cities areas is #1 or 2 for being bike-friendly. The problem is that, especially downtown, uptown, and around university campuses, younger cyclists (under 30) don’t know how to bike. They don’t follow laws, they don’t wear helmets, they don’t have lights for night, they don’t signal, they don’t yield to pedestrians, they are total chaos. My mom is an avid cyclists (I’m talking 30-90 miles per day for the last 20 something years) and bikes with a group of other like-minded cyclists. They wear helmets, they signal, they obey all the rules of the road and they don’t do idiotic things like bike and TEXT or bike, text, and listen to music. When I see kids doing that I almost hope they get run over so that they are removed from the gene pool. People will start taking cyclists seriously when they start acting like serious cyclists. Buy a damn helmet and follow the laws. Its so simple.
I think part of what the article is saying is that cycling should not be so serious in the US – it should be a mode of transportation but not have heavy requirements. To be able to keep up with the flow of traffic without being constantly scorned by drivers, you have to mostly be a fit male with a road bike. Biking on the side walk is illegal for pedestrian safety. This prevents the normal person with their cruiser or mountain bike and lack of riding/racing experience from using bikes for transportation. What the article is saying is that the culture of biking and how bikes are seen, including the laws that bikers face, can be better. What I see is that we blame cyclists for not being cars (i.e. going fast, stopping at lights like cars, etc) and is a part of our culture where cyclists are secondary to cars, in that they have to fit in or leave. The current laws do keep bicyclists safe in a car-dominated road. But ideally, bikers should not follow laws that were meant for motorized vehicles because it makes commuting on bike very inefficient. The laws are simple only if you support the current predominant culture – but if you think biking should be more common, then laws, which indirectly influence its accessibility, need to change too. Perhaps, on certain roads or parts of town, bikers should be viewed similar to pedestrians (or have their own category) and be deferred to.
You have just described the typical Amsterdam (and other Dutch) cyclists there! Offcourse we have proper cyclists. But as resident of Amsterdam, I can tell you I’m one of the ‘naughty’ cyclists you are describing.
The big plus in Holland is the all drivers are also cyclists, as a driver I know exactly to anticipate to the next movements of cyclists in the city center of Amsterdam.
Mr. Dutch Cycling Dude? What planet are you from anyway?All younger males? I guess you didn’t bother to come by here abouts to see the daily ride of folks in their 60’s, 70’s, and yes 80’s from Los Osos to Cayucos and back. They sure help keep the local coffee bars in business. Yes, its exercise for them, and many do use recumbents made locally in Lompoc. Not upright cycling. Clearly you’ve never had a bad back … or orthopedic health issues yet. The operative word is Yet boyo. When you do let’s see what you have to say about recumbents. You know we do wish we had the kind of cycling infrastructure that you Dutch and Danes have … we do have some … a cycling thoroughfare in the middle of San Luis Obispo and new bike lanes do appear. But you don’t have the spectacular scenery and weather we have here. Its the billion dollar view if you cycle whether ‘racing’ or traveling leisurely. But here distances are vast guy? I do ride to get from here to there but one must cycle fast when the distance is 14-20+ miles with hills. And that’s one way. Wouldn’t you?
I suggest you quietly read the story of the Dutchman again without you to feel the American Society being attacked by this guy. It is a positive story about the bicycle culture in the U.S.
It’s not just social pressure to wear a helmet, it’s the law in many places. Many people in the US see cycling as not feasible because of the distance they live from their work. For example, I live over 20 miles from my school, it would not make sense at all to bike there. Additionally, if you need to look your best at school or work, biking isn’t always feasible in the winter times without special tires, extra precautions, or taking a lot longer than normal. I live in Eastern Washington, we frequently are covered in a couple of feet of snow and slush. Even when I lived three miles from school I didn’t bike or walk, because over half the year it rains or snows. By that point, I’ve made a habit of driving the ten minutes to school rather than the 45 min of biking. However, in my undergraduate I biked to school all the time, and i didn’t wear a helmet. Hardly anyone did and tons of people biked. The reason is because it was mostly inter-campus travel, and not on the road, but on the sidewalk. Had I been on the road I would have worn a helmet. My father is a safety professional, and even giving yourself a little advantage of saving your life is well worth it. I think people in the US just would rather have the convenience of driving or public transportation thank cycling.
No, it is not the law in many places, at least not state law! 21 states, the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands have a helmet law for bicyclists below a certain age, generally about 16. Only the Virgin Islands requires helmets for all bicyclists.29 states and Guam have no bicycle helmet laws at all. That is the majority. See: http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/helmet_laws.html
The bike-share programs in the various US cities are not doing well. Local people know too well the hazards if bike riding in the US. Tourists are absolutely ignorant they decide to rent a bike & try US traffic. The reason US street bikers tend to be mostly young adult, fit, males is because that’s what it takes, besides a certain amount of fool-heartiness & a feeling of immortality. I have an adult trike, which I only ride on sidewalks & in empty parking lots. When I have to cross a street with it, I walk it across in the crosswalk with the “walk” & “green” lights. Still, the rear of my trike was hit by a car that was turning left… behind me. My dogs were in the trike’s basket…. & we were all extremely lucky. Did cars stop? No, cars continued to turn left around the outside of the car that had hit us. I was on my knees in the middle of the street when the lights changed & traffic started moving. Only 1 person stopped & tried to block traffic to let me collect my dogs & get to the sidewalks & to help the shaken young man who hit us to get his car over into a driveway. This is why it is insane to ride bikes on streets in the US. Bike riding as transportation goes up when times are hard & people can’t afford a car. Every day, I wake up to hear a story of a hit & run involving a cyclist who has been killed during the night or early morning. The only way cycling will ever be viable & safe in the US is for there to be a completely separate bike trail system where bikes do not have to share anything with cars.
Different bikes in US versus NL, Yes! Remember there are NO, I mean absolutely no hills or vertical changes in Holland, it is totally FLAT!
This makes a bicycle a much easier commute vehicle in NL than in most of the US where hills do impede the pedaling flow, by making you SHIFT down on the way up and up on the way down.
By the fact of many, many many more bicycles on the road, as well as parked, there is a different concept toward bicycle riders in traffic. Enforcement is more specific toward infractions impeding bicycles and riders are more conscious of the cars and their behavior than in the US.
Bicycle riding is much more a recreational activity than a commute option.
Can I suggest from an Australian perspective, which I believe is relavant for most US cities, is that many European cities have a much higher density of people per KM²/mile². This means that there would be greater distances between point ‘A’ and point ‘B’ in the US, as there is in most Australian cities.
The city I live in has a population of about 2 million and is built on a coastal plain. At its widest it’s over 35km, about 20 miles, and over 100km, 60 miles, along the coast. I couldn’t imagine that there would be too many European cities covering that much area with so few people.
My current job is nearly 50km from home. Previous jobs I’ve traveled 15 to 25 km each way. For many people these distances are way too far to cycle.
Some really great things about getting around my city is the amount of separate cycling infrastructure and being able to take your bike on the trains outside of peak periods, so you can get around much of the city using a mix of cycling and trains
This is a common trope in Australia (and in the US as well). Brisbane is quite sprawling even by Australian standards and very much so by American standards. Even for a US sunbelt city Brisbane is low density. For example, Brisbane is ~1990 ppsm while Tampa is ~2800ppm. And to be clear here, because the Australian usage can be very confusing, I’m talking about the Brisbane LGA or “Brisbane City Council” in the local parlance, compared to the City of Tampa (the entire municipality not just the CBD).
It’s true that some US metro areas are low density on average because of a relative small amount of the population living in very low density exurban areas (known as “rural residential” here in SEQ). For example, you might have 2% of the metro population living on 15% of the land area – it’s even more extreme here in SEQ.
The point in mentioning this is that it’s not how most people live. 1/3 of all Americans live within the municipal boundaries of the 28 largest cities – Cincinnati and everything larger. When you include the urban areas adjacent to those cities the number jumps to 70% of all Americans. 26% of all Americans drive less than 15 minutes to get to work . . . given that most Americans live in urban areas it’s likely that nearly all of these people live less than 5 miles from work.
More importantly only 25% of all trips are journey-to-work and up to 40% of the traffic in some urban areas can be people just running errands or picking their kids up from school less than 3 miles from their house. People don’t walk or bike because, outside of cities, it’s dangerous and, for the most part, drivers are ridiculously oblivious to anything that weighs less than a ton and/or moving slower than 15mph.
It doesn’t take a huge mode shift to clear up our roads. The difference in traffic volume between a gridlocked road and a free flowing one is often in the realm of 6-7%. If everyone made at least one trip per week by bike or on foot it would solve a lot of the traffic problems we have. Even for purely selfish reasons (fuel costs, time wasted in traffic, parking costs, etc) people should be able to understand that and get with the program.
Thank you so much for your observations! I love cycling, but as an American who lives in Chicago, I decided long ago to walk or drive instead, because I am TERRIFIED of cars when I’m on a bicycle. Until we have dedicated lanes for cyclists (and I don’t just mean the skinny strips painted on the ground, that the roads WERE NOT designed for), I won’t bike to and from work in Chicago. (For that matter, until I’m guaranteed health insurance that won’t leave me bankrupted when I’m in an accident, I’ll avoid biking around cars, too!)
Come on over to Denver!
Or better yet, come check out Tour de Fat in Fort Collins, CO! We’d love to have you. Great article!
visit Long Beach, CA where in addition to painted bicycle lanes there are dedicated bicycle lanes separated from traffic lanes by parked cars and a curb. these lanes also have dedicated signal lights.
The lady in your last photo rides an omafiets, but with very akward handlebars. As if it was meant for a totally different bike, or for riding with a child seat. And the angleof the handlebars is set too much upwards, making her sitting position okay, but her arms way too stretched out. Still not too relaxed, I’d say. But if she likes it, it’s fine by me – just thinking it could be even more relaxed with dropping the handlebars a bit and bending them more towards the rider.
Thank you so much for this insightful film! I live in a more suburban setting, but am so irritated that my home town thinks buying the cyclist decal and a bucket of spray paint is enough to proclaim Roswell GA a cycling friendly town! It is so dangerous to ride in most places because the few bike lanes that are sprayed on disappear and reappear without reason. You quickly go from a bike lane to street parking/ door zones, then to narrow roads where the white line is half eroded from the pavement with a ditch immediately adjacent. As a suburb of Atlanta which is know for its terrible traffic you would think people would be interested in providing an alternative to another car on the road, but the second anything costs money or might inconvenience a car driver ( ie, losing a parking space, sharing a lane or stopping for crossing cyclists) the idea is discarded. I would love to be able to ride my bike to do errands but with very few places to safely lock up a bike and dangerous road conditions I end up saving the bike rides only for special occasions when I have time to put the bike rack on the car, drive an hour to a “rails to trails” site and make a nature day with the whole family. Very sad because fitness shouldn’t be a special occasion but a way of living.
Comparing a county as small as the Netherlands (you can fit them into the US over 612 times) to the whole of the United States is a bit ridiculous, there are many places here in the US that are very bicycle friendly. And as for the authors seeming disregard for the need of helmets, he obviously has never met someone who has suffered traumatic brain injury from falling of their bike or being hit by another cyclist or a car.
You might just be right Robert. Cycling in the Netherlands is so safe that most people will never have met someone who has suffered traumatic brain injury from a bicycle accident.
This safe cycling is not some unique characteristic of the Dutch, it is something which can be achieved anywhere with the proper infrastructure and mindset. I’d say have a look around this site and see for yourself how this can be achieved.
I completely agree. Taking in consideration such obvious facts: size of the cities, traffic, roads, habits. The Dutch people used to cycle ages ago and this is cultural, heritable. In fact, I am here now,visiting the wonderland of Amsterdam. The order and tolerance in the city makes it ALL possible. But not every society reached these heights and Peter Pan like “i had a dream” constant state of mind. It’s nothing, but a compliment.
With all due respect Robert it is reactions such as your own that will forever bog down if not prevent significant change from taking place in the acceptance of bicycles in this country. Seriously put away the “we’re so exceptional” flag for a while and start being part of a solution.
I’m from the Netherlands, and live in the USA for almost a year now. I love to ride my bike from A to B, but it is very difficult here! I try to ride on the road as much as possible, but it just isn’t save. And when I ride on the side’walks’ a lot of times there aren’t curbs…
The most scary are the drivers who are busy texting and calling while driving! But that’s something I also find very scary while driving a car!
Getting my drivers license over here was very easy compared to the Netherlands and I think it shows in practice.
I see a lot of people driving around with stickers on their car ‘Start seeing motorcycles!’ I would love to change it into ‘Start seeing (motor)cycles!!!!
The sad part is, that here in the US, bicycles are required to follow vehicle traffic safety laws… at least in New York State. Technically, it is against the law to ride on a sidewalk… but 99.0% of the time it is safer than not. Better to risk a ticket than to get hit by a car. I used to bicycle in my suburban community all the time. But the towns, villages and cities make it near impossible. I was struck by a car, that should have stopped at a red light. Were it not for the fact that I was wearing a helmet and was smart enough to jump before impact… I would have done more than just some bruised and running my helmeted head through the car’s windshield, which resulted in 22 stitches in my forehead from the impact-tear I received. The driver never received any violation from the police… even with four witnesses who stopped and told exactly what happened. Not even a failure to yield. I was following traffic laws… the car’s driver was not. Yet the local newspaper painted me as the villain. Ignorant excuses for journalists.
If public officials, towns, cities and states would give respect and appropriate laws, biking lanes as well as places to lock up bikes… perhaps attitudes would change. First the laws have to hold automobile drivers accountable, period… except when it comes to little kids… no matter how careful you are… accidents happen. I once stopped my car about 100 feet or so from a child, riding her bicycle in my direction, making sure she would pass my car safely before proceeding. Danged if the little girl didn’t smack right into the side of my car! Luckily, the neighbor saw the whole thing… the mother was so apologetic and the neighbor told the mother off for letting the girl ride unsupervised. I just stood there and smiled. All’s well that ends well. The little girl still remembers nearly knocking her head off on my side view mirror!.
Anyway… It is and can be very dangerous to ride your bike in the states. If you think it’s bad in the city… stay off the country roads where it’s dangerous to drive a car let alone ride a bike!
I live in Portland, Oregon and we have some of the best cycling infrastructure in the country. For the most part drivers are conscious of riders here because so many people do it either for leisure or as a mode of transportation. However, you have to be really vigilant because there are some motorists who believe they own the road. I’ve been nearly hit, honked at, harassed and flipped off more times than I can count. I’ve stopped being nice. I let offending drivers know exactly what I think and in no uncertain terms. I like commuting to work via bicycle for many reasons and will continue to do so, however, no matter how good the infrastructure it comes down to being cautious and just a little bit lucky.
Come visit the Twin Cities, Minnesota. That’s nice to visit Davis and Chicago; but you are missing something. We have shared bikes, extensive bike lanes, trails, etc. Education of people is essential. We have to wear helmets because we have more motor traffic. Compare apples to apples please, not apples to squash. Thanks and happy biking!
And yet a helmet will not protect you in the event of a accident with a car. Helmets are only rated up to 20kph (about 12mph), anything above that and the helmet will do very little. So clearly the number of cars should not influence the choice of using a helmet.
I ride is some heavy traffic and do not wear a helmet. I know how to ride and know just how small my risks really are. In fact my risks of head injury walking to my bicycle are greater and I don’t feel the need to wear a helmet there either.
His observations were spot on 100% accurate. Americans have a lot to learn.
Living in Madrid will make you realize the fear factor before thinking about riding on the streets. Just yesterday I saw a company is renting bikes for the Retiro Park but outside you are truly risking your life.
I spent a week in Amsterdam and rented the Gazelle bike and love it and your city. What a pleasant surprise, and your infrastructure is made for cyclists, not like Madrid. Please come here and fight for us and a change for better access to the type of lifestyle that you enjoy in the NL. The austerity is killing us.
Just returned from Amsterdam in Holland and I can say that their bike lanes are as useless if not more dangerous than any non bike lane in the USA. This is because light but fast motor scooters use these bike lanes. Making it seem like one has been teleported into a modern day seen from a Mad Max film.
The “Left on Green Arrow” thing…those signs are there for a purpose.Some intersections have a left turn arrow, but after the arrow goes off you can still make the left turn. Other lights, you can only turn exclusively on the green arrow. Those signs are used to remind the driver that the particular light they are at is signal only.
The most interesting thing I have noticed in the area I live (20 miles East of St. Louis, Missouri) is that there is a marked difference in the types of cyclists. The “casual” riders are the ones who follow the traffic rules. I think I can safely say that 95% of the motorists have no problem at all sharing the road with this group. They always stop for lights and stop signs. They stay in the bike lanes. They are aware of what is going on around them. They tend to take advantage of the 97 miles of bike paths that is in our town. When they do go on the road, they ride defensibly. As they should. Every single person on the road, whether motorist or cyclist, needs to drive defensibly.
The second group, the lycra and tap shoes group,? Those are the ones who send the motorists into rage fits. Rarely do you see one on a bike path. I’ve been told by friends who ride that bike paths are avoided due to pedestrians being in the way and slowing them down. I’ve seen numerous lycras on the road NEXT to the bike lane (which is wider than your average car). I have had them dart across the road without stopping when I have the green light and they have the red. They run stop signs. They do not use hand signals to indicate a turn. I have actually seen them on the interstate. Sure, they were in the breakdown lane, but that is just a moronic action. I will call the state police every time and report them. They have absolutely no regard for their own personal safety. They act like spoiled entitled children. They constantly endanger themselves AND the other people around them.
In my area, there is a lot of open spaces between towns with 2 lane state highways that run between them. Our county has poured a lot of money into trails that run between towns. On the 12 mile stretch that I drive every day, from my town to the to the town I work in, has a bike trail 500 feet from the road. At least 3 times a week I will encounter a lycra on the road, not on the bike path. The road is 2 lanes, no shoulder at all, many blind curves, and 3 blind hills. There is nothing like rounding a turn at the speed limit and almost hitting a cyclist to get your blood going first thing in the morning.
While I agree 100% that the cyclist has a right to ride on the roads, I also believe that they need to also follow the rules responsibly. In my state, and in many others, it is unlawful to be going more than 10 miles an hour under the speed limit on state highways. Not many riders can go at least 45 MPH. That makes riding a bicycle down the road unlawful, not to mention quite dim-witted.
While I agree with you about the problem of cyclists not following the rules of the road (as I cyclists I’ve been known to verbally abuse those who run red lights for example), your issue with lycra clad cyclists being on the road and not cycle paths is not their issue, it’s your issue. They have every right to be on the road, there’s no rule that states that they should be on a separate bike path, which around ,y town are usually filled with people with dogs on leashes stretched across the path, oblivious runners with iPods turned up to max often running 3-4 abreast filling the bike lane, and ambling walkers. Given the obstacles on bike paths, it’s obvious why someone on a road bike, who often can easily be riding at the speed limit of regular traffic, choose to ride on the road instead. Bike paths are nice for causal riders, and I use them all the time, but understand that a bicycle is a road vehicle and has as every right to be on the road as your car.
The left on green arrow sign really is superfluous in this case. What else could a red left arrow possibly mean than don’t turn left?
Search “John Forester Minimum Speed Law” and you will have your answer.
I must have missed all correct observations about cycling. I don’t see anyone firmly against cycling. Or against the type of people who would voluntarily choose to get out of a perfectly good motor vehicle and pedal a bicycle. I think that bicycles are for children to use in closed residential neighborhoods. After about 15-16, no more courtesy. I have 5 motorized vehicles and feel the roads were made for my tires and steel bumpers. There is no way, driving in a 14000 pound, 10 wheeled deuce and a half, that I’m going to notice something that weighs 105 pounds that has the mass of a small TV. There will be accidental blood and spokes in the street. So let’s just make it easier on me and not put anyone in that position. Just get the keys and drive a full sized truck. If you must, wouldn’t it be best to just build special isolated bicycle roads far far away from fossil fuel based motorized vehicle pathways. The two should never meet. Please, stay off my roads. Thank you for your time and your post about bicycles in the U.S.A.
I would never hire you to drive a truck with that attitude you should have your commercial drivers license revoked. I drove a 13 ton 40 foot city bus, the 60 foot bendables go 20 tons all with air brakes. I obeyed the rules stayed in my lanes and did not run my wheels on sidewalk curbs like I saw with delivery trucks. I had decent training. My pedestrian and bicycle customers were safe around me. You don’t pay all the road taxes the 18 wheelers pay more than you.
You are funny! This can’t be meant serious!
They are not your roads. Roads are to be shared by pedestrians and -all- legal vehicles, which included bicycles. If you cannot -notice- a bicyclist then YOU have a problem. Bike roadways would be nice. Will you voluntarily pony up your share of the taxes to get them built?
I disagree. There’s no way a passage can be made safe to carry 17000 pound vehicles with 5 foot high tyres and a windshield 7 feet from the road with a 10 foot hood out in front AND leg powered bicycles or shoe powered pedestrians – even at a moderate 35mph. The asphalt is made for fossil fuel burning heavyweights and nothing else. I’m also not paying for isolated bicycle paths I’d never use. All my money goes to fuel my 4 mile a gallon vehicles. The sight of someone in yellow spandex bobbing on the side of the tarmac painfully spinning thin tyres uphill at 2mph blocking my heavy wall, steel bumper should think twice about the consequences. Jeeze cyclists have a lot of impudence thinking they have any entitlement to the road. And yes, I’m a horrid psychopath with no feelings for others. I don’t even know why I’m contributing to this blog. I’ll keep my thoughts to myself from now on. But one day… one day….
Yes i get your types now and then, you are no team player in life, this is clear, I love to cycle, its joyous when the drivers share according to the laws for us but yes you types make it unsafe with your disregard for our lives on our bikes. We fear you but we shut that fear down so we can ride…
Missoula, MT which is pretty small town but has always seen itself as bike friendly has just put in separate bike lanes separated from the road by parked cars on part of it’s main downtown drag. Other sections of the city are just as bad as most cities but at least there is plenty of paths on old railroad bed that cut across the city. You can go from one side of town to the other on dedicated bike/pedestrian paths and never ride on the road.
Cycling in Ottawa is equally dangerous.
I live in NYC and they just introduced shared cycles. Its the worst idea ever. You can’t introduce thousands of bikes into a system that already has major problems. No one respects bike lanes and the “rent a riders” have no idea of bike etiquette.
I’ve seen people walk in groups in bike paths when there is ample space to walk on the sidewalk. People park their cars and truck in bike lanes. And underneath the Brooklyn bridge they sit on lawn chairs in the lane. Yes lawn chairs. Ring you little bell? No one cares. I have an air horn and no one moves.
I ride as if I’m driving. You don’t drive the wrong way, recklessly swerve or ride 3 across on the road. I see this and more everyday
I’ve seen so many accidents. Its actually safer to ride in traffic then to use the bike lane.
“GET ON YOUR BIKES AND RIDE!!!” Freddie Mercury.
The more people that commute through cities, the more cycling friendly it will be.
Two reasons why people are more likely to wear lycra and hi viz gear, at least in Seattle: rain and hills. To get to my last job I had to chug up 2 big hills, plus a couple small but steep ones. I’d work up a good sweat by the time I reached the office. Hence the big backpacks/panniers/messenger bags people often have – you don’t want to get all sweaty in your work clothes so you either bring them with you or (if you plan ahead) have a change of clothes at the office. Half my commute was on a dedicated and physically separate bike path (the Burke Gilman) that’s recognized as a commuter thoroughfare; however, getting there required navigating a few hairy intersections and being vigilant about avoiding the dreaded door prize. I can totally understand why people just don’t want to deal with the hassle.
Would you ever buy an electric bike, a.k.a ‘electrically-assisted’ bike? I’m not sure I would, but people keep telling me to open my mind. Those hills will be a breeze.
Those are illegal in NYC.
The Seattle hills are one reason I ride a lightweight racing-style bike–the less weight I have to haul up those hills, the better! And visibility is definitely an issue in winter when everything is gray.
To answer Alex’s question–not sure! I saw a lot of them in China (where the separated cycle tracks host electric bikes and small scooters as well as bicycles) but I really don’t see them much in the U.S.
Having lived in the Netherlands for years, I can attest to their love of cycling. It is an ethic there. Children to the age of eighteen can be seen riding in groups, to school every morning, no matter the weather. To have a parent drive you is an embarrassment. Still, there are fundamental differences in both countries.
Here, the distances are far, far greater. While in the Netherlands you can be from one town to another in only one or two kilometers, here, it can be eight or ten miles. Fuel is far less expensive here, which allows Americans to utilize cars for less money. We also do not have the road taxes they have there (to the tune of around $1000 a year, to put a small car on the road), which again, also allows us to drive. In the Netherlands, because the distances are so short, there is less need to worry about time constraints, whereas in America, we have to think about the distances we must travel. Lastly, they simply do not have infrastructure to support large numbers of automobiles, so bikes are almost mandatory. Just get on the A2 at rush hour, and you’ll see what I mean. There is little affordable parking, anywhere in the cities, so a bike is a “Must”.
This being said, I developed a love for biking, and brought my wifes and my upright “Cruisers” home with me, along with two other “Old School” black bikes. We ride regularly, and our town just painted in it’s first bike paths, on the main thoroughfare through town. We have also renovated 11 miles of old railroad path, to the neighboring town, and are working on another section. I can only say that our countries are different, the geography dissimilar, and the economics not quite the same. Still, I love riding my bike (sans helmet), and can thank years of watching my Nederlands friends…. 😉
The thing I think a lot of people fail to realize, is that the ‘fundamental’ differences you mention between the Netherlands and the U.S. are because they were intentionally made that way, in both cases. It’s not that the Netherlands is somehow genetically inclined to small highways, expensive parking, and bicycles. They made an intentional decision to make driving a car expensive and less convenient, to not sprawl their cities to the ends of the earth, and to make riding a bicycle the easiest way to get around. Why? Because it’s simply better for everyone (except the car companies) all the way around, in every way you can possibly imagine.
In the same way, the U.S. has made an overarching, decades-long effort to get everyone into cars, to make driving as cheap and convenient as possible, and to exclude any other way of getting around if possible. In the 40’s and 50’s, the U.S. government was funding something like 80-90% of any freeway project proposed by a state. We’ve ripped out huge chunks of our cities to put in freeways through them, to build parking lots for all the cars, and we subsidize it all massively so that it *looks* cheap to the end-user (except that’s where all there tax money goes, instead of providing education or healthcare or libraries, or anything useful).
The problem in the U.S. now, is that the oil and automobile companies, the insurance companies, the oil companies have such a huge sway (and all benefit from our current system), there is immense resistance to anything but an auto-centric design methodology, and it has been that way so long now, that the average person can’t even imagine anything drastically different, because they haven’t really known anything different.
I would just add one observation of differences. In general, as far as I can tell, the process of getting a driving license is much more rigorous and much more expensive than inn the USA. Also, from what I am told by European acquaintances moving violations of any kind are more likely to result in suspension of driving privilege than in the US. In the US it is relatively easy to get a license, it’s considered almost a requirement really as the drivers license is the primary form of legal identification. Let’s face it, in the US they’ll let pretty much anyone drive and short of manslaughter or three DUI’s you’ll rarely hear of anyone losing it. Adds up to lots of bad driving.
Cyclist collides with my parked car. They really need mandatory insurance and licensing. Over $800 in damage. Thanks guys.
A car collided with my parked car. Apparently the mandatory insurance and licensing didn’t help. They left me a large dent but no note. Luckily my bike was parked inside my house and was safe.
I think the most bike friendly city I’ve been to has been Munich. I ended up renting one for the day and, from my American point of view, was amazed at how stress-free it was.
If the outlook for bicycles doesn’t look good in those American cities you visited or the west coast, you will be shocked at how terrible the infrastructure and attitudes are elsewhere in the U.S. My city, Knoxville, Tennessee, for example, has very few cyclists outside of the campus area. Wealthy areas are more likely to have bike lanes, but with nothing separating then from auto traffic, you’re risking your life by drivers going 60 MPH. The attitudes are bad too. I’ve been yelled at to get off the road several times. Apparently only car drivers have places to get to.
I can only hope to soon relocate elsewhere so that riding my bike won’t become a stressful activity.
I’m from Knoxville too but now live in Pittsburgh, PA. Here they’ve done an amazing job converting old railroad tracks into the most incredible bike paths…it’s definitely an oasis within the city! You can ride for miles and miles without crossing a street and even ride to DC and WV.
Nashville, Chattanooga, GA and parts of KY have done the same and I can see Knoxvegas getting in on it soon. The greenways are nice but not nearly enough space to ride around on. Here’s hoping the greenways grow and so does cycling in Knoxville!
I live in Knoxville and my bike is my primary transportation. Knoxville’s not a bike-commuter mecca or anything, but it’s actually pretty good in my experience, and getting better every year.
As an older adult (62) Here in Davis, California, I am rediscovering the joys of poking along on my converted “racing style frame” in whatever I was wearing when I got up that morning. I do admit to being conflicted regarding the use of helmets. i don’t wear one in town, but do wear one when I’m out on remote country rides. I’m curious about any data related to head trauma in NL versus the US associated with bicycle traffic accidents.
Despite the excellent infrastructure in NL, it still won’t keep you safe.. Living in Wassenaar, one of the nicer parts of The Hague, my 5 year old son was sideswiped by a bus and had his left arm crushed. He now has limited use of his left arm and has needed extended surgery and rehabilitation. He will never be the same and all the bus driver got was a slap on the wrist. They had to take skin and muscles from different parts of his body just to make his arm remotely useful. All because the users of the fietspad wouldn’t give a 5 year old boy room and an inconsiderate bus driver not using his mirrors. Yes he was wearing a helmet a reflective vest and his bike had a flag, but people’s inconsideration still caused a life changing event. It’s not just about the cycling infrastructure but it’s about the people who use them.
Clearly the narrator is not a huge fan of motorised vehicles. Let me say this about cyclists and cycling in the Netherlands, In general I don’t think riding a bike in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or The Hague is any safer than in New York or Toronto. The Dutch cities may comparatively speaking have a greater abundance of cycling lanes but the roads are often much narrower and motorised traffic within the city is often just as bad as in the larger cities in the US. Yes, some American cyclists wear helmets, because in some states it is mandatory. The Dutch do not wear helmets making them much more susceptible to serious injury. In Canada (I cannot speak for the States but I assume it is much the same) whenever Canadians see a cyclist in front of them, they will use another lane (often the lane for opposite traffic) to go around the cyclist in an almost exaggerated fashion being almost ridiculously careful not to hit the cyclist. This never happens in The Netherlands, cars tend drive very close to cyclists or rather cyclists tend to drive in very close proximity to cars, this can be very nerve wracking for motorists who really don’t have much room to maneuver past these cyclists. Quite often it is the cyclists in the Netherlands who put themselves in dangerous situations by not adhering to traffic regulations and quite often find themselves (I dare say) above the law. The thing is, cyclists like pedestrians are considered weaker traffic so it is almost as if they have immunity if an accident with a motorised vehicle occurs. My feeling is however that pedestrians tend to be more careful than cyclists.
It’s time for this Dutch blogger to visit Australia where, the minute you climb on a bicycle you also acquire a giant target front and back. Having cycled in the Netherlands for transport (three on one bike), being met at the railway station by relatives each with an extra bike gripped by the handlebars as well as for pleasure.
Riding in Holland is not without danger (car doors swung open in your path) but considering the distances ridden it is a very small chance. Australia on the other hand has the ‘racing’ type rider. Mostly young, fit males and very little infrastructure. What there is in bicycle lanes is a dangerous, narrow, painted lane that disappears into ‘important’ car lanes. Also, Australia is populated by people who have no respect for cyclists or their vulnerability to car traffic. It seems to be a national sport to see how closely one can drive past a cyclist to ‘encourage’ them off the road they have no business being on….and if one happens to get hit – well, no great loss, is it? As for the cyclist, like other Australians they are no great respecter of rules and forget that the driver they enrage is surrounded by very damaging metal and a lot of it! It is wise therefore, if you take up cycling in Australia, you make sure you have your affairs in order.
Well as it happens I am in Sydney right now! Sydney has some really good (new) infrastructure. But also some very intimidating traffic situations!
you should visit Malta sometime…lol. To ‘avoid’ road accidents the new infrastructure of the roads have an invisible sign urging people not to cycle!!
I live in Austin TX, the land of the “entitled bicyclist” thanks to Lance Armstrong. Bicyclists here believe they have the right of way in every situation, that regular traffic laws do not apply to them and use the roads when bike lanes are accessible to them (just because they want to ride side by side and chat).
If bicyclists want parity with cars then they should pay for it. They should be required to register their vehicle and have yearly safety inspections. They should have to purchase liability insurance or sign a state mandated waiver of liability should they be hit by a car due to a lack of safety devices or unsafe riding practices. A Roadway Bicyclist’s license might be in order, so that they know that traffic laws due apply to them and are aware of local ordinances concerning the operation of bicycles. The funds gathered from these items could go towards build Bicycle friendly infrastructure.
There is no road system in the world that isn’t subsidised by general taxation, which means that cyclists subsidise drivers the world over. Even tollroads are still subsidised for the most part, and you *should* change lanes on a general purpose road to pass a cyclist, so it does not matter in the slightest whether there is one or two of them. In fact compressing the traffic is good for overall traffic management, and for gods sake you have power steering, power mirrors, power indicators and mirrors and an engine, it really really isn’t _that_ hard.
Also as is patently obvious, if you build 2 buildings of the same size, one an office, and one a carpark for the office, the cars of the office workers will not all fit in the carpark (ie an office needs 3x as much floorspace if people are to all drive). Cars are absurdly oversized for urban transport and force urban areas to be so large, and motorways force large deviations on foot traffic, such that more traffic has to be motorised, ie it is not natural, its a self-generating phenonemon that sensible urban management has to break up and prevent.
If pedestrians want parity with cars then they should pay for it. They should be required to wear a jacket with a license plate attached and have yearly safety inspections. They should have to purchase liability insurance or sign a state mandated waiver of liability should they be hit by a car due to a lack of safety devices or unsafe walking practices. A Roadway Pedestrian’s license might be in order, so that they know that traffic laws due apply to them and are aware of local ordinances concerning the proper use of sidewalks and crosswalks. The funds gathered from these items could go towards build Pedestrian friendly infrastructure.
Helmets are a legal requirement in many U.S. jurisdictions, especially for riders under 18. If our infra improves, I expect additional helmet, bike appointment and, perhaps, clothing requirements will be implemented and more strictly enforced, as well.
As it stands now, however, bike lanes are typically poorly implemented and, in some places, may be the most dangerous paths for riders! My personal favorite, in a nearby suburban town, is this one lane that swoops downhill, then ends abruptly at the intersection … and right at the sharp metal mouth of a raised drainpipe!
I am 72 years old and cycle and have cycled lot for transportation for many years, in Brooklyn, and in the Catskills where I live. I have also cycled a good deal in the Netherlands (Rotterdam and Amsterdam). Some differences I notice between the US and the Netherlands are 1) motorists seem to be much more respectful of cyclists in the Netherlands, 2) Cyclists in Brooklyn are less likely to obey the rules of the road and respect other users, 3) Brooklyn cyclists seem to carry things more in backpacks than in carriers on the bike (this may be slowly changing). I thing there is a great need in the US for cyclists of all ages to respect traffic rules so that pedestrians, car drivers, and truck drivers will be more accepting of them. Rusty Mae Moore
I live in the Kansas City area and I am not a bike-rider. Kansas city, MO has started the bike share program in the past year or two and also has buses which allow for bikes to be put on the front of the bus while you ride the bus. They built a new bridge over the Missouri river with protected bike lanes, but they apparently end up with so much debris from cars and trucks that the bikers won’t use them. Out in the suburbs where I live, it is very hilly (a lot of Kansas is) and seriously I personally think we get about 10 days a year that you could ride your bike any distance and not need to significantly clean up afterward, so only kids, and the truly dedicated bike much. Recreational bikers tend to ride on bike/walking/running paths we have throughout the county. So most of bikers on the roads are “training” for some event. These groups of riders are very disruptive to the flow of the car traffic. They ride on two lane roads without curbs so the entire group is taking up the lane in a 35-45 mph road that has enough traffic that safely passing them becomes nearly impossible, creating back-ups. This past summer police began ticketing groups of bike riders for failing to stop at stop signs, so consistently creating dangerous situations that the police set traps for them. I respect bike riders and try to watch out for them, but they need to be respectful of car drivers and plan their training rides on the many roads which would allow cars to safely pass them and not create a back-up. And they need to follow traffic laws. I wish we had the bike traffic lights which were described. Many bikers just think they can go through a red light if there is no oncoming traffic. I think it is very difficult to compare cities in the US to each other, much less to cities in Europe. What you describe in the Netherlands sounds very idyllic from a bike riding perspective.
I’ve been a cyclist in San Diego,CA for 45 of my 62 yrs….I have told recently that I am seen as being a risk taker because I commute on the roads. I have been told by drivers that “bikes have no business on the roads” …. In San Diego, biking is almost entirely a recreational activity, the infrastructure for commuting almost nonexistent; no one thinks bicycling is worth the investment. Thank God I wear a helmet because I would’ve been dead a couple of times from encounters with motorists speeding around and into my path. There are some good dedicated bike paths in town, but nothing continuous. I drool when I look at pictures of places like the Netherlands, sometimes I would just like to move there. People are too entrenched with driving here; they don’t want to ‘risk’ getting out on a bike for fear of getting run over. I was personally at the side of a guy that was knocked out onto a freeway lane (OVER THE FENCE) from a frontage road by a girl high on drugs while driving…I could only sit with him as he died from having his face crushed into the pavement, with no way to do CPR when he stopped breathing because his jaw was gone. People act like they want to do something about the environment, but God forbid they get out of their cars. I do get angry sometimes.
I live in the Chicago suburbs. Don’t mind the large groups of recreational cyclists or the ones on bike paths, however the ones who ride on the right edge of the road on a busy and NARROW thoroughfare forcing me into oncoming traffic drive me bonkers. Bike lanes would be nice…before I get in a head-on collision trying to steer around one of these guys.
The pedal to the left of the gas between the gas and the clutch pedal is called the brake. It is used to slow the car down so you don’t hit things in front of you, like cyclists legally taking the lane…
If you cant maintain road speed stay off the road.
Bicycles do maintain “road speed”, it’s different for bicycles. The same holds true for pedestrians.
Regardless of whether or not a rider actually wears a helmet, that fact is that helmets are mandatory by law in most U.S. states, including California. I am perplexed why you would comment on the use of helmets as being anything but a positive safety measure.
Helmets are legally required in most U.S. states for *children* (under age 16), and not legally required in most U.S. states for adults.
Is it possible that he is alluding to the fact that in Europe (NL) a helmet is not necessary because unlike in the US, in Europe drivers are more cognizant of sharing the road with bike riders and therefore decreasing their need for helmets?
Yes, that is exactly what he is alluding to. I live in the Netherlands and have been driving my bike everywhere since I was a little kid. I wear regular clothes and have never worn a helmet, simply because it is not necessary. Car drivers pay attention to bike riders and I have never been hit by a car.
I think the helmet is indicative of two aspects of current American culture – excessive reaction to small events and the penchant for litigation over common sense. The same goes for all the signage.
Because the helmet has not been proven as a safety device (as far as TBI). There is still an active debate whether it provides much of a benefit at all, or if that benefit outweighs the number of people the choose not to ride because of helmet laws and helmet nazis.
More Government intrusion into my space.
I have lived in Chicago for eight years and have biked daily for nine out of twelve months a year. I have never had an accident involving anyone other than myself and I bike a relaxed style. The biggest problem in Chicago are the drivers, you can have lanes and lights and helmets but the drivers hate cyclists, the animosity towards cyclists in Chicago is astounding! verbal on a weekly basis and occasionally almost physical! this needs to be talked about? The quality of driving is also very bad, barely legal driving is occurring, u-turns, reversing down major streets, driving through red lights is common, not knowing the size of your vehicle is all a problem, cell phones and driving is huge here, and the police do little to nothing, there are very few tickets issued from cameras, it really is the Wild West in Chicago. Chicagoans use their car horns as a voice to shout ‘get out of my way’ There is a real fear of difference in the U.S and it is rooted in poor education but it carries through life into all areas, and ‘alternative’ lifestyles such as cycling instead of gas guzzling are feared and loathed. Chicago is a kill or be killed city, I spend most my time just smiling whilst I bike if I didn’t I would arrive at work furious at almost having been killed 5 times that morning.
Riding a bake was the same in Philadelphia 35 years ago, except for the cell phones. A friend of mine started riding with his bike chain in hand – in case a car came too close. Usually the threat was sufficient – but when someone is trying to run you into the parked cars, a light rap on the hood is an equalizer and a reminder that there is a PERSON riding the bike. Of course, in Chicago, you’d might get shot for doing that.
That is called VANDALISM and could be interpreted as assault with a deadly weapon will get you severely beaten or worse.
That’s just about the most inadvisable thing I’ve ever heard of a bicyclist doing.
Amazing that he managed to go forward having his bike chain in his hand!
Within Philadelphia the law states a bicycle rider may ride in the middle of the lane which should preclude being forced ‘into the parked cars’.
The law also states the driver of a car should observe a minumum of four feet of space between the car is and bicyclist when passing the bicylist.
As many have mentioned it’s very helpful to investigate the laws of your municipality.
here here…..the attitude of drivers is very bad even in Seattle ,wa where I live and is pretty bike friendly….you make a good point that the crux of the problem is americans sense of entitlement and “car culture”…even with pollution and global warming…and the deeper issue of humans not trusting the “other” someone from a slightly different “culture” is somehow threatening…..if only we could have bike lanes everywhere so as to NOT have to mix cars and bikes…a fatal combination if only it was easy, fun and cheaper and better for the environment…to ride or take public trans ….maybe we could shift this car culture….IF people could get where they need to go in a timely manner….Let the professional drivers drive public trans and get rid of cars….we would have less accidents and dead due to cars!!!
I’ve lived in Chicago 50 years and drive from the north side to downtown every weekday. And guess what… I don’t hate cyclists. And I’m not a bad driver. Police do issue tickets. My neighbor has gotten several red light tickets in the last year alone. So you’re correct Matthew, there are some very bad drivers out there. But I can tell you that every day I drive I have yet to see a single cyclist obey stop signs or red lights. I’m talking every.single.day. They run stop signs and red lights every chance they get. I’m not trying to generalize like Matthew, I’m just stating my observations.
Matthew – Did you or anyone, including the Dutch author, notice the cyclists running stop signs and red lights in his video? I didn’t notice the cops ticketing the cyclists for breaking the law in the video, did you?
In 35 years of driving in the city I’ve never considered it the wild west. Yup, there are idiot drivers out there, and as a fellow driver I have to deal with them too. But it’s not the wild west. We obey traffic laws. 100% of the time? No, but 98%.
Having said that, I don’t really blame cyclists for being so aggressive. It is dangerous out there. I disagree with Matthew that we hate cyclists and it’s kill or be killed. It’s simply something new, for all of us. We’re not used to sharing the road and cyclists aren’t playing by the same rules. We need more and better marked bike lanes. We need better education for drivers and better enforcement of biking rules for cyclists. Sharing the road goes both ways. As a driver, what am I supposed to do when I’m driving a main thoroughfare, marked for 25 MPH, and I come up behind a cyclist riding at say, 15 MPH? I have to first…slow down, slowing all cars behind me. Then I have to check my side mirror and blind-spot to see if I can change lanes. Then. most likely, the cars behind me have already changed into the left lane to get around me, not knowing why I slowed down. Then, if I finally have the opportunity to swerve around the cyclist, I have to make sure he/she doesn’t also swerve out to avoid a parked car door or pot hole…in which case I just might hit him/her. It’s a bad situation, for all involved. I want to share the road but until we have safe, marked lanes it’s just dangerous for everyone. Oh, and don’t even mention taking Sheridan Road or other main streets on the weekends, when bikers commonly ride 2 or 3 abreast.
The bikers that ride with chains are just vandals. Admitting it is criminal, not to mention plain stupid. I’ve only seen bike messengers do that and they are always, without exception, breaking every traffic law on the books when they ride. Unfortunately, I have seem people try to shove bikes into parked cars but it’s always, always, always, after the biker has broken a traffic rule. Much the same as when a car on the highway veers into the shoulder to prevent some other jerk driver from using the shoulder to pass. Some drivers just believe that if they obey traffic rules so should other drivers…and bikers. I really don’t believe they are trying to hurt the bikers, just trying to remind them to share the road AND the rules. Now I know lots of bikers will respond to this saying drivers are really trying to kill them. To you I say…really? We’re (mostly) responsible, upstanding citizens, but the second we get behind the wheel we become raged out murderers? Matthew seems to think that way but I’m confident most rational bikers don’t.
And frankly Matthew, the way you describe the U.S. makes me wonder why you even live here…you really seem to think all Chicagoans/Americans are really hateful and angry…or is it just we car-owners? Yeah, I too think it’s ridiculous that so many people, especially city-dwellers, have big SUVs. But it doesn’t make them raged-out criminals. And really…you think biking is an ‘alternative’ life style? Where are you from? 35 years ago I biked to school every day…in Chicago. As did all my friends. Not exactly alternative.
Having grown up in the Netherlands and having lived in various parts of North America now for several decades (Bay Area, Ontario and now Vancouver, BC) I would say the article makes good points but the picture regarding differences in infrastructure is not as black-and-white as painted. Nor is it the key difference.
Certainly in Utrecht where I lived as a student there were numerous places without a nice separation between cars and bikes and were navigating traffic is as tricky as it is here in Vancouver. Its very similar in other Dutch cities as well. Heck, my commute to high school was along a very sketchy piece of rural road until decades later they finally put in a bike path. And last year we rode bikes as a family in rural north Limburg, again stretches of rural road where one has to watch out for fast traffic making it a bit of a challenge to ride with 10 year olds. They loved their upright bikes and no helmets BTW.
Back to Utrecht, my first driving lesson I still remember being stopped at a light surrounded on all four sides by about a dozen cyclists. And there is the real difference, critical mass. In the Netherlands, cyclists are everywhere and are on everyone’s mind. Their part in the commuter mix here is maybe 5-10%, out of sight, out of mind. How to change this is the big challenge and I am not sure that cycling infrastructure or upright bikes alone would make the difference (let alone that I have a hard time picturing riding up the hills here on a Dutch style bike). Part of the problem is acceptance of cycling at work and having facilities to change when wet, sweaty or to get otherwise presentable.
Last, the patched together cycling networks here are part of a larger spending problem. While you were here, did you look at the electricity distribution network? It is similarly patched together.
Right now my commute in Vancouver takes me largely down the Central Valley Greenway, a gravel pathway completely separated from traffic. Still a big hill to climb though, but that allows me to pretend I am still one of those fit young males.
You are an absolute idiot and you offended me. You implies that it is bad to bike for recreation (I do), that it is bad to use a helmet (I do), and you has no clue what he is talking about. You keep saying that it is the lack of infrastructure (that he call “infra”) that keep people here from commuting by bike. The average commuting distance in the US is 16 miles and 25 minutes by car. With a dutch style bike (like a one-speed cruiser) that will take about 3 hours. In each direction. The average commuting distance in Holland is 2.2 miles and take around 25 minutes on one of these dutch bikes.
Please get your facts right before you start calling me names. More than half (51%) of the commutes in the USA is under 10 miles (16km). That would be a perfect distance to cycle. The Dutch on the other hand have much longer commutes, in fact, in time the longest of Europe, 50 minutes on average per day that is a lot longer than you claim.
I don’t say cycling for recreation is bad. I only say that to make mass cycling a reality cycling requires a different image to appeal to larger groups of people.
Your video and discussion made your points well. Please visit Indianapolis some time, they are developing some very infra, as you say.
Please, before dump on America’s lack of, or poor, cycling infrastructure, realize that there are reasons that Americans don’t cycle as much as Europeans other than that we simply hate bikes. In Europe, most cities were constructed well before the advent of motor vehicles, and therefore have roads that are far too narrow to enable much more widespread automobile use. They are also generally more compact, which makes them more pedestrian, in turn making driving more difficult. Amsterdam even has concentric horseshoes of canals, which, I would imagine, make driving there a bit of a nightmare. American streets, by contrast, are much broader, allowing them to accommodate much more car traffic without getting congested. Plus, gas prices in Europe are often more than twice as high as they are in America, making riding bikes much less of an economic imperative.
Not that riding bikes to commute is bad. On the contrary, I think we should definitely encourage it. But there are reasons we do things the way we do, so please don’t say we are wrong without trying to understand them first.
If it’s true that our roads are wider, then wouldn’t it follow that we have more room for this infrastructure for cyclists. I just saw a tunnel re-done in my neighborhood, that added a bike lane without even losing car lanes. The refresh was good for all, and now I have a lane I can use. Previously, I the “bike path” ran over the tunnel on a pedestrian thoroughfare, which annoyed the walkers a great deal…but that was the “bike path” afterall, so we were stuck with each other. Now the cars, bikes, and people all have a place…and this is in Cambridge, MA where everyone knows real estate and space is VERY dear.
You’d think so, but because our roads are wider, they support a greater volume, and velocity, of motor traffic. This makes cycling more dangerous, in turn causing more people to prefer driving. It’s a feedback loop.
And it’s great that Cambridge did that, adding a bike lane to the tunnel, but it’s a far cry from making the whole city safely bike-able, and most municipalities even have the funds to do that, these days. I’m not saying making American cities more accessible to bicycle commuters can’t be done, only that it will be much more difficult than this guy seems to think, and for reasons other than “American drivers don’t respect cyclists.”
Most American cities were planted well before the automobile too! So that argument fails. The automobile was invented around the turn of the century and did not start seeing widespread use till the 20’s. While true most American cities have wider streets, it’s not because of the car.
50 minutes per day is not a distance. It is also 25 minutes each way. It also includes cyclists and walkers. So your info’s a bit skewed, isn’t it?
The Netherlands is also as flat as a pancake. The US, at least the parts the majority of people live in, has hills. Lots of them. Some of our big cities are built on them, like San Francisco and Pittsburgh. So I’d say you have a much easier time of your commutes than most Americans.
50 minutes at 12 miles per hour equates to 10 miles a day
I work 22 miles from home at night up and down hills and I work 12-14 hour shift. NO WAY I AM GOING TO RIDE unless it is on my Honda.
I agree that the popular appeal needs to change, but you also need to realize that you live in a place that is geographically and meteorologically perfect for cycling — compact, flat, and with an incredibly mild climate. 10 miles is a nice commute, if there aren’t hills, the temps are mild, and there is appropriate infrastructure. I can tell you from experience that a 5mile commute in Texas with no bike paths/lanes is an excellent way to increase your stress level. Only the last of these is something that can be changed in the usa. However, I know that even if i had bike lanes, i wouldn’t commute 10 miles to work in Texas in May-Aug (or Chicago Nov-Mar).
Of course, as Americans learn the joys of cycling, they may also learn the joys of living in a more compact environment. I know that I have.
Sorry, it doesn’t have to take three hours to go 16 miles. I bike 20 km (almost 13 miles) and it takes about an hour an a half. So 16 miles – closer to 2 hours. I also have to go up a couple big hills, and I’m not particularly fit nor do I have a fancy road bike, so I usually walk my bike up. If I lived somewhere more flat it would be faster.
I know this wouldn’t be the case for everyone, but don’t knock it unless you actually bother trying it – Google Maps has pretty good biking directions.
You’re right that it would probably take that long if you have a Dutch-style bike, but even having three gears would make a big difference (and to be honest, in North America, is way easier to find).
Just as information for dutch readers: The ‘Turn left on arrow’ sign has nothing to do with bikes, it is a common road sign.
As a Dutchman living in Minnesota, I can see how separate bike-paths are much better than even bike-lanes. There is however a problem in implementing bike-paths, even if the political will is there.
My current American town has about 10 times more road mile/inhabitant than my old town in Holland. Then add in the fact that there will be snow on the path 5 months of the year and maintenance costs for these path goes through the roof.
I like the idea of the signals and a separated path for the bikes. And just h9ow often are you riding a bike during the fridged Minnesota winter. So why have snow removal costs figured in your post. Biggest problem in Seattle is the shared lanes and bicyclist thinking they are exempt from traffic laws, They run stop lights and signs all the time don’t yield to oncoming vehicles when turning even saw one lady scream at a car cuz she had full right to travel down inside lane on a main rooad thru downtown. I think she paid for it later as I heard aid unit heading in her direction. I have no problem with the riders that obey the law but the rest should all be hit by buses
I live in Minneapolis and lots of cyclists ride all winter here. My husband commutes by bike all winter. Snow removal costs and timing are a real barrier to permanent separations on roads – we have speed bumps we have to take up for the winter too, all our infrastructure has to accomodate snow removal, including parking, with a one-side parking ban on all streets in many winters.
Nice threat, there, btw – do you wish all car drivers who speed a bloody bus death too? Maybe you’re not emotionally stable enough to operate a motor vehicle.
And I have no problem with the CAR drivers that obey the law but the rest should all be hit by buses(and then, THANK GOODNESS, there would be no more car drivers left ruining the planet for the rest of us)
I’m surprised you didn’t visit the Boston area – it tends to be off everyone’s radar because the city proper only has something like 2% “official” bike commuters (there is actually high ridership in several of the economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, but these people are rarely counted on official surveys) – but the urban core is really 5 or 6 municipalities, and one of them is over 10% mode share – and bikes often outnumber cars on some streets because most people here usually walk or take public transit.
The Boston area also has far more cyclists than any of these cities you visited (even NYC or Chicago) – but also suffers from a severe lack of continuous bike infrastructure. one of my favorite stories is a few years ago bike advocates were trying to convince the city to put bike lanes on one major thoroughfare, so the city went out and did a count and discovered that bikes already made up 15% of all traffic on that street.
here is a typical morning at the end of one a bridge with the lowest amount of bike traffic:
Here in Montréal we’ve also always had a lot of utility riding on crappy old bikes in poor neighbourhoods, and a mainstay of our city is the cargo bicycles or tricycles which have been used by “dépanneurs” and small supermarkets for many decades, and yes, even in the wintertime.
We do have more dedicated lanes than you, though, although we also have the narrow streets typical of cities that are old by North American standards – built before most people had cars.
This is a fantastic post and video. It should be required viewing for every public official who means well but approves useless, half-baked measures such as sharrows in the (misguided) name of compromise.
Mark comes from the place in this world with the most successful cycling culture and public policy. If we had a brain, we would just ask the Dutch (and the Danes and the Germans) to tell us what to do and then we would just do what they told us.
I hope the public officials viewing the video ticket the bikers going through the stop signs and red lights.
Did you feel the Chicago two-way cycle track was too narrow when you visited?
I live in San Diego, CA and I ride to work every day. From what I’ve seen, the author is spot-on. I don’t wear lycra, my bike is a $300 folding bike, I have no bike shoes, and I don’t wear a helmet. I ride to work in my work clothes (I’m a teacher). Helmets are not made to protect cyclists. They are made to protect drivers…from cycling getting so popular that it challenges their monopoly of the roadway. Just as the author says, cycling is made to look like a high-risk activity for daredevil young males. And, unfortunately, some cyclists LOVE that aura. They get very fast and aggressive on their bikes, bombing down the sidewalks sometimes.
There is one and only one cure for the ridiculous image biking has in the US:
More bikes on the road.
Getting more bikes and more people on the road will chill-out not only aggressive drivers, but the angry bombers on bikes. Infra is great, but it’s going to be bike sharing that will be the key to getting big numbers of cyclists on the road and making cycling a viable way for the average person to get around.
Of course you can ride in your work clothes: San Diego has some of the world’s most pleasant weather.
Europeans’ complaints about Americans’ cycling apparel strike me as so shallow and ignorant as to verge on insulting. Most American cities have MUCH less favorable weather for cycling than Northern European cities. In the few weeks out of the year that Washington’s weather resembles that of Amsterdam, many of us relish cycling to work in “regular” clothing. However, what we Washingtonians call “summer” would be called “a disastrous heat wave emergency” in Europe (I should know: I was in France in August 2003).
i agree with you , i am in the “colony” of washington d.c. and i bike everywhere, all year.
the summer here is gloriously HOT and i love it, but i can understand that european physiology is not designed for it.
the author is correct in that a lot of us do ride road bikes and yes we are flying down the street as fast as we can!! (me too) but is there any other way to ride???
LOL the traffic forces you to be a defensive rider . the biggest problem i think are the folks that just hop on a bike and wander around without a idea of how to “ride” properly.
ps. if you dont value the contents of your skull, dont wear a helmet, …….. everyone else make the helmet a habit!!!
I am surprised that you as a teacher are not familiar with the head injury statistics regarding children and bike accidents. It is not if you fall while on your bike, it is when. Just where did you get the notion that the bike helmet is not made to protect the cyclist, that is just plain specious.
I have had a broken helmet when I hit an unseen pothole one time and landed on my back, the helmet was cracked. A second time on a bike path a pedestrian suddenly appeared walking right toward me. I was traveling about 10mph at the time. I tried to avoid her, and just as I got to he right, she stepped over, and must have caught my handle bar. I woke up with a fireman asking me If I knew where i was. I had flipped and I has a concussion, and slight subdural hematoma, thanks to the helmet, and I buy the best I can. Riding without a helmet is stupid. There is a good reason the law in California says children under 16 must wear a helmet. According to statistics, 30% of children’s head injuries are from bike accidents.
I wear lycra and a jersey for the comfort and ease of access to items while riding. I do not ride to work anymore as I am retired, but I do ride about 15 0 miles a week.
the shorts prevent chafing and have seat padding, and yes I ride a carbon fiber bike with 27 speeds, it helps to get up the steeper hills.
Your attitude toward helmets is an opinion that has no basis in fact. I hope you do not teach your students opinions in place of facts.
I’m surprised you haven’t read the research on helmets that suggests that they can actually cause subdural hematoma by halting the rotation of the head, and causing the brain to rotate and tear the connective tissues connecting it to the skull, when otherwise you may have just had a nasty bump on your head, or you might not have even hit your head at all, had you not had the extra bulk of the helmet.
Nor have you read the research that shows that since mandatory helmet laws and heavy social pressure to wear them in the U.S., the rate of head injuries per cyclist has actually gone UP significantly (the overall number of injuries has gone down, but the number of people cycling dropped by several times more during the same period).
This is because, when you put the onus on the vulnerable person to protect themselves, and then give the people driving the 2-ton vehicles freedom to do whatever they want without consequence, the streets become much more dangerous for everyone. It’s a simplification, but a basically accurate generalization, I think.
A bike helmet is made to protect the cyclist, but being honest about how much protection it gives, what a cyclist’s actual risk is, and where the real danger is actually coming from are very important, and calling people names because they are against helmet promotion and legislation in favor of infrastructure, law and education that benefit people on bikes is not helping anyone.
You just described yourself as a roadwarrior/MAMIL and think that everyone takes the same risks you do while riding. My city is full of these Middle Aged Men in Lycra tearing down streets, shared paths and arterials alike with a sense that every paved surface belongs to them – peds, motorists and other cyclists beware or be damned.
You ride a bike to go fast and to prove to yourself and the world that you’re tough.
Of course you guys (and you’re almost always men) should wear a helmet. As you said, it’s not a matter of if but when you crash.
Riding my upright bike at 10mph alongside the occasional 20mph passing car doesn’t carry the same risk.
This is the prevailing mindset that over-reacts to incidents and believes that you can never have enough protection. But everything can be done in excess.
When you observed bicyclists using a full lane, you said, “It looks like they are trying to outrun other traffic.” It is true that most people in the U.S. believe that a bicyclist using a full lane needs to keep up with motor traffic. They do not. Organizations such as iamtraffic.org are trying to dispel that myth.
As an american who lives abroad, in a city with far worse cycling environment than the one I came from, the points about the infrastructure are well taken but I think the cultural observations are off and it has to do with cities chosen here. San Francisco and Chicago are high-octane cities where everyone is in a rush regardless of their mode of transport. Davis has a more relaxed cycle culture because it has a more relaxed culture. It’s not a big city and has a well known and well deserved reputation as a laid-back, hippie/college town.
San Francisco has a lot more young, fit riders on the street because San Francisco has a lot more young, fit people. Seriously, look at the demographics for the city. Also, I see quite a few track bikes/fixies/single speeds in the SF footage – this is trendy, a part of hipster culture in much of the english speaking world and beyond. I’d also mention that you don’t see more dutch-style bikes, especially bakfiets, because they’re outrageously expensive. I bought my road bike used for $150 and spent another $150 on fixing it up. I bought my commuter bike for $125. A dutch cargo bike retails for around $3000.
The hills of SF make cycling there not for the faint of heart. I think that’s most of the reason you see who you see cycling there. I, for the life of me, can not understand the slavish infatuation with fixies in places like SF and Pittsburgh but people do it. Similarly in Chicago, it may be flat but it’s awful cycling weather 7 months per year. Amsterdam in early February is like Chicago in late April. There’s really no comparing the two cities in that regard. The early adapters of the bike infrastructure there are going to be the most hearty of people.
I realize that these are just the cities you visited but there’s certainly a trend in international academic circles to take the worst examples and hold them up as the American standard. I attended a recent talk on cycling in my current city and the speaker was using Houston as an example of an American city. I went to another lecture on public transport ridership and Phoenix and LA were the US examples. If you really wanted to see the future of cycling in the US on the west coast you would go to places with a high density of riders. That might be Davis but you’d probably go to Portland before SF. In the midwest you would go to Minneapolis or Madison before Chicago. On the east coast you would go to DC or Philadelphia if you were looking for legions of unhelmeted, upright riders.
Finally, I’d suggest that bike specific road infrastructure is far less important than the speed of vehicular traffic and general attitude and attentiveness of drivers. Philadelphia, for instance, always scores low on “best US bike cities” because it has a relatively low level of on road bike infrastructure but because it’s mostly narrow, one-way streets with slow moving traffic in a city with fairly level terrain there is a high density of bicycle commuters both male and female of all ages. It’s great to have lots of cycle tracks but if you’re in constant danger when you leave one they’re ultimately not very useful.
Living in Portland, I can tell you that conditions for anyone not in a car here are totally the reverse of most places in Europe, and perhaps most notably in the Netherlands. Just over this last weekend, I was nearly hit by cars while crossing the street in crosswalks 4-5 times, with the drivers of said cars looking annoyed that they had to wait. One of them floored it and swerved around me.
It’s even worse when riding a bike, which I do nearly every day. I get shouted at, I get aggressive posturing from people in cars, riding up right behind me and revving, honking, I get cut off unexpectedly. This is all in the center of the city, too, not the outskirts or the suburbs. This is in the most ‘bike-friendly’ parts of the city, where there are the most people riding bikes.
There is no infrastructure to speak of, save in maybe two or three sections of road where there is some separated infrastructure for a few hundred meters (several blocks), which then returns you to normal bike lanes or just nothing, and usually makes you cross bus stops or car travel lanes or car parking to do so.
Portland is not a large city like Chicago, NYC, Los Angeles or even Seattle or San Francisco. It’s more like a large small town. Most of the city is suburban development from the first half of the 20th century. Portlanders are known for being laid-back, low-key, relaxed types. This is often the case, until they hop in a car, or on a bike. Once you put them in a ROAD, everything changes.
Setting speed limits is not enough. Nobody follows them, and they are not enforced, and the police show no intention of enforcing them more strictly. If we want people to drive at safe speeds, we need to engineer our roads so that it is uncomfortable for *them* to drive any faster. Since, in many cases, this would require rebuilding the road, why not add separated infrastructure on those roads at the same time? We should be doing it, and we should be doing it *now*. People are being injured, dying, and are afraid to set foot in public space because of the current state of our traffic. This in Portland, the ‘bike capital’ of the U.S. It’s complete nonsense.
Even in Lithuania, which I cannot hold up as any kind of shining transportation mecca, you could walk out into a street basically anywhere and be sure that nobody would hit you, because the attitude is completely different, and in most peoples’ minds, everyone has a right to be there, and their convenience is not worth your life. You could also take a bus from any city or town into the middle of a cow pasture in the middle of nowhere, and those buses ran on regular schedules, so that even if you lived in the middle of nowhere, you didn’t need a car to get around, across the whole country.
In Portland, you can hardly find good bus routes that go North or South across the center of the city, much less to *other* cities. Taking the streetcar from North to South across downtown takes twice as long as riding a bike or driving. There is no North/South rail on the east side, pretty much, except to one specific area of the city.
My point is, Portland *is* held up as one of the prime spots in America for transportation, and the situation here is dismal compared to the *average* European city, much less places such as Copenhagen or Amsterdam (or even other cities in the Netherlands with better conditions for cycling than Amsterdam).
Thanks. I wasn’t saying that Portland or DC, Minneapolis, Philly, Madison wherever are *as good* as Copenhagen or Amsterdam – just that Chicago and SF are not the best examples of the future (or even the present) of cycling in the US.
I’m also suggesting that the level of infrastructure is far less important than the number of cyclists out there and the general attitude of people behind the wheel. Maybe motorists in Portland are jerks. Most motorists are not jerks but the small % of those who are really tend to stand out.
It’s all relative anyway. In my adopted city people talk about the great bicycle infrastructure and “bad neighborhoods” but from my perspective they don’t really know what either is. They also think this place is pedestrian friendly but the drivers are far more aggressive than anything I’ve ever encountered before.
I live in Düsseldorf, Germany, and ride about a mile each way to work every day in normal city traffic (except for a third of the ride, which is a separate bike path, usually filled with clueless peds). On average, I have a moron in a car almost hit me once a week. So, it’s not just bad American drivers that are clueless to cyclists.
Not all roads in the Netherlands have cycle tracks. Are bicyclists required to ride at the right edge on such roads? If so, are drivers supposed to check their right mirrors before turning right so they can yield to bicyclists on their right?
Yes, a cyclist is expected to stay on the right hand side of the road unless he/she wants to turn left on such a road without cycle infrastructure. A cyclist always has the right to ‘untertake’ a motor vehicle (pass on the right hand side) motorists must always be aware of that. Cyclists have priority if they go straight on where a motorist wants to turn. For that the motorist must always check mirrors yes.
Yielding to traffic ‘following the road’, does not just apply to bicycles, but to pedestrians as well, which makes dutch drives more careful and right-turns are usually done at very low speeds. Road design with a tight radius helps as well in slowing cars.
A car indicating a right-turn is allowed to block the bicycles behind him by moving to the right edge (normally, a car would leave enough room for bikes, even when no bikes are in sight). Of course, this manoeuvre can only be done when there’s no bike at the right or just behind the car. Any upcoming bicycles can overtake the slowed down car on the left.
Viewed in that light, I am inclined to agree with Mr. Forester’s view that we are better off with the status quo than its likely alternative – deficient bike lanes that make cycling less safe and enjoyable.
Tell me, how many young children, elderly and/or disabled people do you see rinding their bike on the streets in the cities in the USA? Forrester’s view is apalling because he considers everyone not capable or fast enough in the vehicular race a loser. Your defeatist attitude makes it certain nothing will ever change for the best in your own country.You think the Dutch woke up one morning and, bezinga!, we had this wonderful infrastructure fit for all Dutchies?
Sorry, should have said Bazinga!
Isn’t he getting rather old himself? I have decades of cycling experience, but I also have a bit of arthritis. Cycling helps that a lot, but I’m stiff after a couple of months of not cycling, when we have a harsh pre-global-warming winter, as was the case this past one.
Noticing that you were visiting the U.S. from a picture which you had taken that was posted on the Chicago Streetsblog, I anxiously awaited a blog post of yours about bicycling in U.S. cities. Mark, you did not disappoint. The camera work, editing and voice over as always is superb.
Chicago, San Francisco and Davis are three of my tops picks of places that are leading examples of bicycling in the U.S. and are a fair example of typical traffic engineering throughout the country. San Francisco is one of the top five large cities for bicycle commuting modal share. Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S. and will shortly displace New York City with the most miles of cycle track installations. Davis was the first U.S. city to have bike lanes and a bicycle specific signal. It also has by far the largest bicycle commuting modal share of any U.S. city at about 15%. There are no regular school buses (unusual for a U.S. city) and most children either walk or bicycle to school. Part of the reason that bicycling seems more relaxed in Davis (less than 70,000 population) is that there is less competition for space than there is in the larger cities. In general, its a more relaxed pace in that town than it is in a mega city like New York or London.
I’ve seen your video several times and I don’t disagree with any of what you pointed out. Your view of the overuse of signs was enlightening and the comment about sharrows being useless and having to be replaced frequently from wear is also spot on.
The city of Los Angeles department of transportation is about to embark on creating bicycle friendly streets (bicycle boulevard), or traffic calming on mostly residential streets after installing bike lanes on every arterial street where enough space could be found without making a major impact on motor vehicle traffic flow.
There is a bicycle plan implementation team (BPIT) meeting coming up July 2nd with planners and engineers that I will attend. One of the things we will be doing is indicating which potential bicycle friendly streets should be priority to have traffic calming. For my selections I’m trying to stay within Dutch guideline standards that I found in the City Cycling book that I have. This indicates that if the street has more than two lanes or a centerline then it should have cycle tracks or bike lanes. Working within the constraints of money, political will and the tools that the traffic engineers will be using, I thought that trying to separate cyclists from motor vehicles on streets with more than two lanes would be unlikely to happen in the near term as it would likely require taking space away from motor vehicles
The city of Los Angeles has 6,500 miles of streets and 160 miles of freeways. About 47% of those miles of streets are in the San Fernando Valley where I live.
There are six freeways that run through the SFV that can create barriers for bicycling. I could only find five two-lane streets that go under or over three of these freeways. In one way this is limiting improvements to only sections of the valley, but in another it helps focus the resources to where the best outcomes would be.
Another problem is trying to create low-stress bicycling routes that will connect to the off-street bike paths. Most of connections to, or through railroad right of ways or waterways–where most bike paths exist–are by way of major streets that only get paint stripes for bike lanes. That creates bicycle routes of low-stress bike paths with relatively high-stress bike lanes on major streets. What I’ve noticed is that many people go to and from these bike paths by way of riding on the sidewalks (legal in Los Angeles).
Judging by the high bicycle ridership in Davis and in the University of Southern California campus area (also typically relaxed riding on mainly bikes where you sit upright) of Los Angeles I would say that calming and diversion of traffic is far more important than signs or bicycle symbols on the streets to alert motorists to the presence of bicycles. Getting people to feel more comfortable with the thought of riding a bicycle is the key, getting that without taking much away from motorists while using a low amount of funds is the tricky part.
Things are indeed pretty good for cycling here in Davis. But you have one fact wrong and it just goes to show how much the automobile still dominates, even in the USA’s cycling mecca, Davis California.
The correct fact is: About 60% of Davis K-6 elementary school children are driven (yes, in an automobile) to school by their parents!
The shark’s teeth marking is a yield to crossing traffic signage, regardless of the kind of crossing traffic. It applies equally to bicycle, pedestrian, motor vehicle, and flying saucer crossing traffic.
Given that 4 out of 10 are now overweight in Holland, USAnian-style cycling for transportation *AND* fitness might not be such a bad thing after all.
I don’t know where you got this figure, but it is wrong.
The Netherlands’ population is far less obese than the people in the US. In NL 10% of the population has a BMI over 30 and the country ranks #66 of 92 countries. That figure is well below the global average which is 21.8%. But in the US the obesity figure is 33.9% and the country ranks #9. People in the US are more than 3 times more obese than in the Netherlands where not 4, like you claim, but only 1 out of 10 is obese.
to add insult to injury: NL’s BMI is about half the US’. So what’s considered ‘obese’ in NL is ‘overweight’ in US.
But hey, we all know spare_wheel, he doesn’t let facts get in the way. Bonus: ‘Holland’ doesn’t exist.
Not only that but BMI is a really stupid way to calculate obesity (height – waistline is a far better method, where only people whose waist is more than half their length could be called overweight) as the BMI only looks at height and weight. Muscles weigh far more than fat, so if you were to take two people of the same length and same BMI and compare the two, you might be in for a surprise if one of them were a couch potato whose only exercise was to walk to and from his car and the other was somebody who, say, cycled every day of his life.
It’s stupid to compare one persons BMI but comparing the BMIs of populations is quite valid. In fact BMI was designed to compare populations, the variations you mention tend to average out and become irrelevant when you’re indexing thousands to millions of people.
“while in the US this only means “yield to pedestrians on the zebra crossing”.”
Does it actually mean yield (give way) or is it just there as highlighting?
In the UK I don’t think they mean anything at all by themselves and are only placed on ramps to highlight that there is a ramp/bump. The zebra crossing itself means give way (in the UK), but if it is on a raised table will always have those markings
Another huge issue the U.S. has is education. Nobody knows or understands traffic law, road markings, etc. That’s why there are so many signs to explain every detail of what you are supposed to do. Those shark’s teeth markings are being used in some places in Portland now, but I guarantee you 90% of the population has *no idea* what they mean, and so just ignores them.
Another big problem Portland particularly has, is that we have a penchant for ‘trying new things’ – that is, partially implementing an idea in an isolated case, and then never fleshing it out or ever doing it anywhere else. So we end up with random little bits of different types of infrastructure, markings, signage, etc all over the city that nobody really understands, and there’s not a lot of consistency.
Shark’s teeth?? Those aren’t shark’s teeth–they’re prayer flags!
Reblogged this on Everyday liv(e) and commented:
Ik realiseer me dat ik fietsen eigenlijk heel erg gemist heb in Canada!
Next time you’re in the U.S., you should visit DC as well. The 3-year-old bikeshare program has been incredibly successful, and biking is becoming an accepted mode of transportation (which is surprising in a city known for straight-laced government types in suits).
the white folks who invade dc are who you are talking about.
you do know that there is a city of residents ?
There are plenty of residents making use of the Capital Bikeshare, I know quite a few personally. The program is also available in Arlington and is now expanding into Maryland. I walk a lot in the city myself and the stations are always quite used.
Not sure where you were in the US where drivers treat pedestrians nicely! ^^ I live in Chicago and appreciate our new infrastructure but so much of it is disconnected and creates fragmented networks. This is usually because the road width varies and the car-first planning approach is still very alive. If it negatively affects driving in any way it must be very justified (and may never happen). Every dollar spent on bike infrastructure also has to be justified, since bicyclists “don’t pay taxes” (which is false, one reason is that many bicyclists also drive). Meanwhile, multi-hundred-million dollar highway projects don’t require explanation. Even in 2013. If it saves drivers one second on their commute its worth it!
Ill be in Amsterdam in two weeks for my second visit. I’m looking very forward to biking around. I may not come home!
On my brief trip to Chicago last year I was really quite impressed with the growth in their cycling and their infrastructure. Of course, as you say, as far as commuter cycling goes they are still way behind NL, but isn’t everybody?
My impression was that cities like New York and Chicago believe that increased cycling use makes them ‘cool’ places, even to those who don’t ride themselves. Hence their efforts with city bike systems etc.
Funny how they still sell those children’s bikes that won’t allow the child to sit while riding. I saw it in ET, in Pay it forward, and a lot of other movies. It’s exhausting to ride standing on the pedals all the time. Who came up with such an idiotic design?
They are called BMX (bicycle moto cross) bikes and they are for trick riding, not designed for long trips. Although if you only have your BMX bike then you probably ride it a long way when you have to.
style over substance
I see that you were visiting SF. Did you have a chance to ride? It must be nerve wrecking for you. When I was in Amsterdam coming home to SF, it was for me. =)
Thank you for a very interesting post. I was most surprised at your observations about Davis, which has a reputation for good (by US standards) cycling infra and high cycling mode share.
Proper infra tends to drive cycling everywhere. This is a photograph of one of my favorite cycle paths here in Toronto. The concrete monoliths are the remains of a car-only expressway that was cancelled and turned into a bicycle only path.
See how in the photo everyone has their space. There is a sidewalk for pedestrians on the far left, the cycle path in the centre and the road for car drivers on the right.
As an American who visited The Netherlands in 1995, I’ll say your observations are spot-on.
Most of the things you describe about San Francisco are true of Portland as well. We have more bike lanes than we did 5 years ago, but they are basically all paint, none of them actually go all the way to anywhere useful, and they all end on the near side of an intersection, forcing the cyclist to merge into moving traffic IN the intersection (which is illegal if you’re in a car, because it’s dangerous). We have one good example of part of a street with a separated cycle path, except it’s only about 400 meters long.
The bit about everyone being in an extreme rush also applies here, and I do think it has partly to do with traffic (because you are expected not to ‘impede the reasonable flow of traffic’ – which means the speed that *most* people are driving at, the speed limit is irrelevant mostly). I think it also has to do with the culture in general, as people in the U.S. seem to always be in a hurry in general, not just while going places. We are apparently driven even harder at work than the Japanese these days, we are spread out in terms of distance, and we just don’t have time to slow down.
There is (I feel) strong opposition to helmet laws in the group of people who ride bicycles for transportation in Portland, but also a strong feeling that you’re an idiot, and potentially even irresponsible and selfish if you don’t wear one. This would be a long discussion, but my point is basically that you don’t need helmet laws if you develop this kind of social situation, because it effectively works out to the same results.
In polls, 60% of Portland residents say they are interested in riding a bike for transportation, but don’t because it’s dangerous. And also, as in most places in the U.S., the primary reaction from the public is “if it’s dangerous, stop doing it”. Which of course doesn’t apply to driving recklessly, inattentively, past your ability to control your car, because that is normal and not dangerous. Even though it’s clearly understood that the danger in riding a bike comes from automobiles, driving itself is not seen as dangerous at all. It’s an incredible mental disconnect.
In any case, it is certainly possible to see ‘normal’ people here on bikes going about their business casually and calmly, but they are still clearly the minority, though a growing one, thankfully.
Trying to do my part 🙂 https://vine.co/v/hBErPdHF39p
Dave’s comment highlights again that quirk of the english language as applied to terms like “dangerous”, in they can apply to something which causes danger, or equally (but very differently) something which can be on the receiving end.
Throwing heavy objects off a cliff with a popular pathway below is “dangerous”. And walking along a popular path when a vandal is throwing objects off the cliff above is “dangerous”. One party is clearly in the wrong and remains unhurt while the other is doing nothing wrong, but through no fault of their own is at risk.
Cycling in Portland is perceived as being dangerous, and driving recklessly is dangerous, but it’s the opposite kind of dangerous.
(Sorry, a bit off topic. Interesting post though, and being English I was particularly interested in the comparisons with London. I see it as a race to catch up with the Netherlands, perhaps competitiveness can provide some motivation for those in charge to make improvements!)
I don’t think this is unique for English, if that’s what you mean. The corresponding word for ‘dangerous’ is equally ambiguous in Dutch, in a handful of other European languages that I’m familiar with, and probably in many other languages too.
No, just to clarify, I’m not suggesting this phenomenon applies only to the english language, or that one word. Just using english as an example since it is the language in use here. I highlight it because I think it causes confusion when trying to discuss the subject. “I don’t cycle because it’s dangerous.”, “But driving fast is dangerous and you do that?”. Cycling is NOT dangerous. I could cycle all day around the park and guarantee I’d be fine.
I’ve wondered for some time now why many bike lanes end before reaching the intersection, until I came across this recently: http://www.sfbike.org/?bikelane_right_turns. This particular code is for California, but I suspect the same guidelines/regulations are used in most states in the US, which would explain why bike lanes are designed this way. It’s very out-of-date in my opinion since bike lanes are typically only found on busier roads, which have more traffic, making it very difficult to merge into the traffic lane oftentimes. And not to mention the potential danger of being hit from behind and lack of subjective safety, even for experienced cyclist like myself. This is something that needs to be changed across the board or the rate of cycling is never going to go anywhere in this country. Maybe eventually it’ll reach 2, 3, 4 or 5%, but with the quality of our cycling infrastructure and connectivity, it’s never going to get beyond that.
That’s the underlying theory behind most of our recent bike lane design (I’m in Minneapolis) – you can’t expect cars to look right when they turn right, drivers only look left because that is where any danger to them is coming from. So instead of teaching them to look, teach them to block bikes from passing them on the right.
We now have several lanes that become dotted and then move into the center of the road. That is, if you are biking in the lane and want to go forward, the lane makes an X with all the car traffic that is turning right. And the cars are not expecting to slow down if they are turning. It works surprisingly well for something so terrifying. There’s a reason we ride fast, our adrenaline’s up.
Sounds like a very BAD idea. The dutch idea of dealing with the problem at the intersection is much simpler and clearly much safer. Yes drivers have to check their right, but they should already be doing this to watch for pedestrians.
Learn how to drive. You are responsible to see both sides are clear. As about the blocking bit next time I am driving a 13 ton 40 foot bus I will block and crush any car that passes to my right? No I am a professional driver and I go out of my way not to endanger a smaller vehicle like you in your car. Change your attitude or get a chauffeur or ride in a taxi.