Yet More Evidence We Are Not Building Dutch Infrastructure

Background Reading


People cycling in the lower level – the ‘Bear pit’ – of the Arnhem Airborneplein.

People cycling in the lower level – the ‘Bear pit’ – of the Arnhem Airborneplein.


The more I read about the infrastructure being (and already) built in the Netherlands I am convinced that our approach is not going to work.

From the article:

It was opened 61 years ago and it still qualifies as exceptional cycling infrastructure: the bicycle roundabout in Arnhem at Airborne Square. The Netherlands has several so-called ‘bear pits’; cycle roundabouts at a lower level than the intersection for motor traffic. This was the second one, modelled after the example of Utrecht (which was opened in 1943). One of the other examples can be found in Eindhoven, and a brand new one was recently built in Sint-Michielsgestel.

There are at least two things that are clear indicators that we do not understand what will make our infrastructure safest:

  • FAQ Cycling In Amsterdam (PDF)
  • We are building on-street bike lanes (for the most part) on streets where the speed differential between bicycles and cars is insanely large. In Amsterdam the on-street bike lane is reserved for streets where the maximum speed for all vehicles is 30 kph.
  • The remainder of the bulk of bike infrastructure is dedicated ‘cycle tracks‘. These are bikeways that do not share space with automobiles at all. On fact this roundabout is clear evidence that often such ‘cycle tracks‘ are on an entirely different level than motor vehicles traffic.

When you are as conservative as the Dutch are about their bike infrastructure you can understand why they have so few accidents. But the difference between what they have and what we have is more ‘not so much about absenting cars from the road‘, but rather about carving out a niche for cyclists that is wholly other.

I believe the nuance here is significant. It goes to the heart of the matter of dealing with transportation. When you are willing to pay for what is essentially a network of bicycle ‘superhighways‘ you end up an entirely different look and feel to the topography of the bicycle landscape.

For instance these floating rings that are built in the Dutch countryside that serve as interchanges for cycle tracks intersecting from various places is not some sort of ‘shoe horning‘ process. You do not get that kind of infrastructure out of a can of green paint and a box of PVC bollards. We should be ashamed of ourselves for accepting anything less than honest-to-goodness Dutch-style infrastructure.

But out problem is that we are frantic about getting something, anything done before the money being doled out begins to be counted. But the real problem is not that funding might be pulled, but rather that after a few more years of this ‘slipshod‘ approach followed up by lackluster data results we are going to have to answer for our contention that bicycle infrastructure makes everyone safer.

Clearly what we are building is nothing like what is being built and evidently has been built in Amsterdam for nearly 6 decades! Our so-called Urban Cycling Community is likely going to take one of two approaches to the bad news which will inevitably follow all of this fruitless infrastructure creation:

  • They will do what they did with the last round of ‘bad news‘ from the Governors’ Report and ‘blame the messenger‘. And if that ploy does not work…
  • There will be finger pointing at either the municipal DOTs where this crappy infrastructure was situated or better yet…
  • The blame will be shifted to the state DOTs where distance makes the confrontation a bit less personally devastating.