Sunday Open Thread: Translating Dutch Bicycle Infrastructure to America

April 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Source: Seattle Transit Blog

From the Netherlands to America: Translating the World’s Best Bikeway Designs from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

 An Interesting Set of Responses

Eli says:

April 1, 2012 at 12:47 pm

The elephant in the living room in the American bike movement is that the “European” facilities we’re advocating in standards like NACTO for amount to what the Dutch did 20-40 years ago and have long since moved beyond.

It’s like an alternate universe where Russian scientists are still trying to copy Windows 3.1 and pitch it as modern user interface in a multitouch era.

I’m not aware of any cities in America building or proposing anything that remotely rivals standard Dutch facilities, which is a shame and a tragedy. The stuff they build is beautiful, and I miss it more than anything else about living there.

Copenhagenize says:

April 1, 2012 at 6:52 pm

That’s because under the current MUTCD (adopted in 2009 by the feds, more recently by , the stuff you see in Holland, Denmark or even Germany is illegal here and thus not able to be covered under municipal insurance schemes (not defendable in court in front of juries since it does not “meet the standard”).

One of the hugest hindrances is the bizarre cult of John Forester and his “Vehicular Cycling” disciples who have managed to convince the apathetic road engineers that not providing *any* bicycle facilities is better than daring to mimic the “superstition” (his words) of the Dutch.

Sadly, few if any of these self-appointed high priests of MAMILism (Middle-Aged Men In Lycra) have even ever been to Denmark or the Netherlands and they feel it is much better if 0.8% of the North American population uses bicycles than up to 50% of these two countries, soley because the North American bicyclist has the right (as is the chief tenant of their voodoo) to use the entire road.

Copenhagenize says:

April 1, 2012 at 6:56 pm

“Issakov doesn’t think La Jolla Village Drive needs a bike lane—that with the right training, anyone can ride here comfortably like he does. In fact, some in the vehicular cycling movement, which has followers all over the world, are vehemently against bike lanes.”

Chris Stefan says:

April 2, 2012 at 8:19 am

Thankfully our local bike advocacy group isn’t that crazy. Though I must admit the CBC is sometimes a bit further into to vehicular cycling camp than is always entirely helpful.

That said I practice vehicular cycling on the 99% of our streets without specific bicycle facilities. That said I appreciate a good cycle track, bike lane, or MUP. Not having to worry so much about the cars (and other motor vehicles) makes cycling much more pleasant and relaxing.

Gary says:

April 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

Copenhagenize, the problem with cycle tracks, and bike lanes is two fold. And it’s obvious you haven’t read “Effective Cycling” and you should go there for a full explanation of why they are more dangerous than just riding in traffic.

First, bike lanes:
Bike lanes as implemented in Seattle are just a bit of paint along side the road. If there is parking, they tend to be just to the left of the parked cars, thus in the “Door zone”, so that any one exiting a car does so right into the bicyclist path.

Second they force drivers to the left, which is good, but then all the road debris is swept by the tires of the cars into the bike lane. If the city swept the roads frequently enough that wouldn’t be a problem but in this day of budget cuts they don’t. So in addition to the door problem we now get to ride in the road junk as well.

Cycle Tracks:
Are great until bicyclists reach an intersection. With the bicyclist farther to the right, and often behind parked cars, auto traffic turning right can’t see the bicyclists, and thus turn into the bicyclists as they are crossing the intersection.


If the city really wants to make roads safer for bicyclists, the solution that works, is to slow down the cars. It’s the speed differential that makes it the most unsafe. When cars are moving more than 15mph faster than the bicyclists, it’s unsafe. That’s true for cycle tracks, bike lanes, bike riders in traffic. There just isn’t time for the approaching driver to react and move to avoid a collision.

Chris Stefan says:

April 3, 2012 at 12:07 pm

Bike lanes and cycletracks don’t have to be hazards for cyclists if they are designed properly. For example you can narrow the intersection and ban right on red to discourage high-speed blind right turns. Elevating the track a bit through the intersection is another way to get motorists to slow down and pay attention.

Gary says:

April 3, 2012 at 9:48 pm

The other problem with bicycle lanes is that if you are a single bicyclist riding North, and there is a car going South on a two lane road, the South bound car will drive more to the center of the roadway due to the bicycle lane, even if unoccupied. This means that cars passing you from behind will not move to the center of the road, because there is oncoming traffic there. And therefore they will pass you closer than they would have if there were NO marked bicycle lanes.

What do I want? Bicycle blvds, i.e. roads where the speed limit is 20, or 25, but that the road has dead ends for cars, but not for bicycles. The top of Capital Hill has a number of roads like this. As a bicyclist, I ride up over the sidewalk and onto the road on the other side, cars, turn right or left as the road is blocked for them.

Or wider roads, with a 35 mph speed limit and a wide enough for a bike lane, but not marked for it and no dam potholes in it. Last thing I need is to be dodging potholes and traffic coming up behind me.

Worst is four lane roads with a regular or narrow right lane, 40 to 45mph speed limits and no shoulder, or worse even yet, a curb with a 4″ vertical wall I can’t ride up and over in an emergency bailout. NE 8th in Bellevue comes to mind.

Cycle tracks, they only work well if traffic is going slow or there are NO intersections where the view of the cyclists is blocked by parked cars or shrubbery etc. The one on Broadway is going to be terrible, but with the slow traffic it may not kill anyone.

Mike Orr says:

April 1, 2012 at 7:18 pm

American cities are building bicycle infrastructure as fast as their public allows them to. There was a wholesale shift in Dutch society in the 1970s, demanding comprehensive bicycle infrastructure. Avoiding traffic deaths was seen as more important than car thoroughput and free parking. The public essentially demanded road diets. Here, even Seattle, one of the most granola-green parts of the country, we can just barely get road diets and sharrows installed without threats to vote out the mayor. (For those who don’t think Seattle is granola-green, compare it to 90% of the country.)