Bicycling in the US, from a Dutch Perspective

September 30, 2013

In Copenhagen, where I was briefly in June, you notice a few things.

a. How much quieter the city center is

b. How many people are riding bicycles, not for pleasure (only), but to actually get somewhere

c. How many more very slender and healthy looking middle age and older people you see

The video above does a very nice job of picking out glaring (to European eyes) deficiencies in how bicycle lanes, racks, and other amenities are so far applied in the US.  Those nice new bike lanes you may have in your neighborhood? Maybe not as nice as they could be if we were more serious that bicycling is a real alternative way to move, rather than just a sport for kids or athletes.

Progress is being made on this, for sure – but this is one area of our transportation system that could have so many positive effects on our cities and our people, it seems more than a no-brainer to move forward.

14 Responses to “Bicycling in the US, from a Dutch Perspective”

  1. MorinMoss Says:

    From the same channel: How the Dutch got their cycle paths

    They had to fight for them and in contrast to the USA, they used the Arab oil embargo of ’73 to make a positive, lasting change.

  2. I can confirm that in Holland, The Netherlandsm, with the capital of Amsterdam, in cities, in villages, in the rural areas and even in woods we have 35.000 km of bike lanes. My average biking distance per week is 200 km.

    Please do not attach Copenhagen to Holland.

  3. Its time for protected bike lanes.
    This will take a cultural attitude shift. Bicycle groups are energizing across the country to change the infrastructure. Bicycles are a major mode of commute and shopping already. A protected bike lane keeps pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists safe and provides a healthier experience for all. The shift to bicycling for work commute has already begun, but the infrastructure and attitude are lagging behind.
    Combining bicycle and motor traffic is dangerous and ineffective. Painting bike lanes on streets does not protect bicyclists. They are ignored by everyone, even pedestrians. When streets are under construction, otherwise unimpaired bike lanes are often blocked by repair signs. Curb areas are often littered with stones, glass, metal, and the remains of traffic accidents. Increasing bicycle transportation will, reduce traffic, decrease noise, increase business, reduce pollution, improve health, and generally make everyone safer and happier. Bicycling can be something to look forward to in everyday life.

  4. Jason Says:

    “c. How many more very slender and healthy looking middle age and older people you see.”

    This. But it’s not just that everyone is trim and looks healthy. Seeing so many faces (as opposed to cars) out and about all the time make Denmark and Holland feel like much friendlier, safer, humane places.

  5. I love this guy’s videos but they do get me riled up. I love them because they show good cycling infra and how well it works. They get me riled up because even with the brilliant example set by the Dutch, North America still can’t figure out how to put in a decent bike lane.


    Whew! Rant over.

  6. Frightening – the number of riders without helmets in these videos.

    Worth mentioning – electric bikes help riders clear intersections faster.

    • Notice that the Dutch do not wear helmets or require electric bikes. It’s because their system works. It could work here too.

      • No doubt we can learn many things about bike commuting from the Dutch, but they haven’t suspended the laws of physics. Bike accidents do not happen only from bike-car interactions.

        Electric bikes increase the viability of longer commutes, especially among those of us who are no longer young and/or live in areas where the temperature pushes over 90. Electric bikes have been accepted more in Europe than the USA for good reasons.

        • I’ve travelled in Europe extensively, especially the Netherlands, and I never saw any electric bikes there. Even people in their 80s ride on ordinary bikes.

          For longer commutes, people take the train, sometimes even taking their bike on the train with them. If it’s too hot or your health is too poor to ride a bike more than a few km, that is the healthier option.

          • It must be years ago for you visiting Holland. The E-bike is a common attribute for people from say 55 to 85. Recreational biking is favorit!
            Also commuters are using E-bikes more and more. Market share of new sold E- bikes is nearing 50%.
            Every restaurant has electrical outlets to serve customers, although with an 100 km load in the battery, you can easely make the 40 -60 km daytrip.

            Do visit Holland again and check please!

          • From a recent edition of BIKE Europe – a journal and website devoted to biking –

            “At last week’s Eurobike the German industry association ZIV announced that for the whole of 2013 a 13% sales growth is expected. This will add up to total sales of 430,000 e-bikes. And that will not be all. For German sales a similar development is expected as in Holland, where e-bikes currently take up 15% of the total annual bike sales. This, in German figures, would mean sales of no less than 600,000 e-bikes!


            My advocacy is for bike commuting in the US where for the most part the terrain is more of a challenge than in flat Holland. In my part of the US there’s a good chance that you will be riding into a steady wind on part of your commute. If you want to do the environmentally friendly commute on your bike having an electric assist makes complete sense. Give it a try & I believe that you will agree.

  7. I was in the Netherlands in April of this year. Also in 2009 and 2011. Never saw an electric bike, and I paid a lot of attention to bikes every time I was there, because it is a special interest of mine. I don’t doubt there are *some* electric bikes there, but they are far from mainstream.

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