A Dutch Evaluation of American Cycling

Warning: This five-minute video may be the most critical evaluation of American cycling conditions you will ever watch. After viewing, you may understand what separates cycling in the U.S. from that in The Netherlands - it's not just infrastructure.
Elvert Barnes / flickr

It's common for bike advocates and planners to visit Amsterdam to experience Dutch cycling conditions, but what of the reverse? Mark Wagenbuur ‏of Bicycle Dutch did just that, and clearly he wasn't pleased with what he found, except in Davis, Calif.

Wagenbuur doesn't think much of bike helmets, lycra, recreational cycling, and all those 'street cycling skills' that many experienced city cyclists pride themselves in practicing. Cycling, 'Dutch-style, is primarily utilitarian and casual, which describes most of the biking in Amsterdam, comprising an astonishing 60% of all inner-city trips.

Wagenbuur evaluates riding conditions and evolving bicycle street infrastructure (which he refers to as 'infra') throughout the U.S.  The more protection from autos, the better, like "Chicago’s Parking Protected Bike Lane Designs" (PDF), though he still finds room for criticism.

But it is still not much more than paint.  Curbs would make it prettier and less easy to reverse.

He does seem to find conditions somewhat close to home in Davis, Calif., the city that boasts the highest amount of trips (22%) made by bike in the U.S. "But there's a lot of cycling here despite the (lack of) infrastructure, not because of it", he remarks, referring to the downtown area of this university town of 66,000.

There the bicycles were far more of the upright variety and people were cycling in normal clothes without all the superfluous safety measures. Good to see that this is also possible in the US. This relaxed type of cycling obviously attracts a far wider range of people, even without specific cycling infrastructure.

Before you shrug off Wagenbuur's criticisms - after all, the U.S. is not Europe and comparisons may not be valid, bear in mind his observation that a "cyclist in the U.S. is 30 times more likely to be injured than a cyclist in the Netherlands."

Full Story: US cycling from a Dutch perspective

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