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What can we learn from cycling in Amsterdam?
It's astounding that 48% of all trips made in Amsterdam are made by bicycle. Even more astounding, 78% of all trips are make by walking, cycling and transit, and only 22% are made by cars. Some think that cycling is engrained in the culture, that no other city could come close to it. This not the case. There are many simple designs that encourage a safer cycling and walking environment in Amsterdam. Cars are still permitted, even when space is limited. You would think you would rarely see cars in the city, but this is simply not the case. Just like any other city, cars are parked in ever nook and cranny. Just because you support cycling doesn't mean you need to banish cars. Permitting access for cars at slower speeds demonstrates that a city could achieve high cycling rates while still allowing cars. When you don't want cars, use barriers to keep them out. It's a simply solution, but one that is rarely implemented. When the Dutch want to keep cars out they put up barriers. Not only this, but the Dutch also build roads that feel unsafe at unsafe speeds. This forces drivers to be extremely attentive while driving, allowing the roadways to be much safer. Not all cycling routes are separated from vehicle traffic. Many people, especially those in North America, believe that the ultimate goal of cycling safety is separating cycling lanes from roadways in every city. Although it is good we want to make things safer for cyclists, sometimes there isn't a one size fits all solution. Only 50% of the cycling routes in the Netherlands are separated, dedicated lanes. The Dutch only use separated or protected cycling lanes when the traffic volumes and speeds are sufficiently high enough to pose a threat to the lives of people cycling. Safer than dedicated lanes is roadways with appropriate speed limits for urban areas. The Dutch don't rely on posted speed limits, because we all know that doesn't always work. Rather, the Dutch design roads in such a way that it controls the speed of vehicles naturally. Retail streets still survive and in fact thrive. Business owners in many places still fear that adding a bike lane in front of their business will cause them to lose driving customers. Businesses in Amsterdam don't just survive with bike lanes in front of their stores, they actually thrive. It is proven that bicycle lanes are actually beneficial for business owners. Parking and vehicular access is provided on almost all retail streets. On-street parking can be found at nearly all retail streets in Amsterdam, so obviously it is still important to provide their driving customers with a parking space. This store front parking is also incredibly important for deliveries. Bike lanes do not prevent crucial business deliveries. As mentioned previously, on-street parking is still important in Amsterdam. Access is still provided for loading and unloading for delivery trucks without having them block traffic. Street width in Amsterdam are comparable to North America. Not only in North American, but in England and many other countries we hear the same excuse, that there is simply no room on the streets for bikes lanes. The streets in Amsterdam have comparable widths to those in America, but the design is different. Amsterdam's streets will typically have wide sidewalks, patios, two cycling lanes, two parking lanes and two lanes of traffic. Do we really need three lanes of traffic for each direction in the middle of a city? That's what highways are for. Transit stops and bike lanes can mix. Many places, especially in England, bikes and buses will share a side lane. This creates an incredibly dangerous situations, as you are putting the smallest vehicle in the same lane as a vehicle that can hardly see when cars are near it. The Dutch make cycling and public transit coexist by using floating transit stops and generous sidewalks.