Linking American Individualism to Transportation Planning

Author Russell Shorto claims that "the willingness of Europeans to follow top-down social planning" makes public transit and bicycling more feasible in European cities than they are in the States where people don't always agree with technocrats.

According to Shorto, factors like geography, public policy, and the collective mindset of people in society contribute to the resounding success of the Amsterdam model.

On the first point, "America is spread out, while European cities predate the car," writes Shorto in The New York Times Op-Ed. Secondly, Dutch laws mandate that children pass the bicycle safety exam, make it costly for people to obtain a driver's license, and deliberately keep cab fares high. "[A] trip from the airport may cost $80 [on a taxi], while a 20-minute bus ride sets you back about $3.50," he points out. Then there's the general perception of cars. Buses in Holland aren't the last resort for mobility just as cycling isn't a green alternative to cars. "[I]t's a way to get around," Shorto says.

His conclusion? "For American cities to think outside the car would seem to require a mental sea change."

Russell Shorto is the author of "The Island at the Center of the World."

Full Story: The Dutch Way: Bicycles and Fresh Bread

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