Think Bike, Like the Dutch Think Bike

19 Oct

Have you ever wondered how different your city’s streets would be if they were designed in the Netherlands, where 30% of the people use bikes every day? Well, if you’re in San Jose you can hear firsthand the changes Dutch transportation experts would recommend at the upcoming Think Bike Workshop San José.

Next week, the Dutch Cycling Assembly will join city staff and other transportation and urban planners in a two-day workshop focused on downtown San Jose. The event includes opening and closing sessions that are open to the public. I plan to attend the closing session on Tuesday night. Having spent several days bicycling in Amsterdam last year, I’m curious to hear how they’d change our local streets.

Amsterdam is famous for its extensive system of cycletracks and a population of all ages that rides them rain or shine, summer and winter. Almost everyone takes a bike for some of their trips. The evidence is everywhere. I couldn’t take a photo in Amsterdam without getting bikes in the background. Not that I wanted to.

So what will the team recommend for San Jose? Will it be more separated bike lanes like the new ones on 4th Street? Will it be corner islands for two-stage left turns at busy intersections? Maybe bike-only signal phases?

One thing I learned is that the Dutch solution is not just about cyclepaths and bike signals. It’s also about going slower in shared spaces and giving way to more vulnerable users, not strict separation. Watch the video I shot below to see how everyone–on foot, on bikes, in cars and trams–gets through this busy intersection safely.

Do you think would be possible in your town or city? Or is it just a crazy Dutch thing?


Posted by on October 19, 2012 in Issues & Infrastructure


4 responses to “Think Bike, Like the Dutch Think Bike

  1. Ken Dickson

    October 20, 2012 at 3:55 am

    I think it’s all to do with the state of mind of the population – once the people want a better place for those who are not in cars then change will come. The amazing thing is that the Dutch system has only happened in the last 40 or 50 years and it all it took was a mass movement away from more & more cars and a government that listened. Looking at the younger population I think that the shift away from cars is already happening, with youngsters more interested in having a good social life than just owning a car. It used to be the symbol of freedom, but for future generations the symbol of freedom might be “not owning a car”

    • ladyfleur

      October 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      I agree. When people decide that walking and bicycling are important things change. Irony is that everyone knows the neighborhoods that are highly walkable are drive higher home prices. Real estate agents will include walkability scores in home sales ads.

  2. Har Davids

    October 25, 2012 at 4:53 am

    A major difference with most of the rest of the world is, that cyclists are motorists and vise versa over here. I’m a professional driver, but I don’t own a car, not needing it as I live in Rotterdam, which is slightly smaller than Amsterdam. As in other European cities car-ownership is on the wane, slowly but steadily, as it isn’t considered important any more, car-sharing like Car2Go offer a much better deal.

    • ladyfleur

      October 25, 2012 at 10:59 am

      I definitely agree that having drivers that also ride bicycles is critical and that driver attitude is as important as infrastructure. Unfortunately, in most of North America almost everyone drives for all their trips and bicycles are seen as recreational equipment.

      So while almost everyone knows how to ride a bicycle and most people own them, they only ride them around their exclusively residential neighborhoods or put them on their cars and drive to a park to ride on recreational bike paths.

      The end result is that drivers are polite to bicyclists in residential neighborhoods and at trail crossings but don’t think bicycles belong outside those contexts. So they grumble about bikes slowing them down on business districts and highways and resent any funds spent on bike lanes or cycle paths. They think transportation funds should be spent on things to make driving in personal vehicles since that’s all they do–not bicycling for transportation or transit.


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