Read this interesting article about Amsterdam overcrowding of bikes, of abandoning of old broken down bikes, and no adequate budget there to deal with how to improve the situation. For all of the glorious reviews of biking in Amsterdam, they have the parallel equivalent of car traffic jams in the US, but with bikes instead and on even narrower roads. This BBC article reports that nearly 25% of all deadly accidents there involve cyclists.
BBC Story here:
Holland's Amsterdam is heavily hailed in the US as a cyclist panacea by nearly all bike enthusiasts writing personal blogs and blogs for organizations. I have yet to see a negative review, the bias is very strong. And this because Amsterdam was able to realize about 67% population split of citizens who regularly use bikes to travel to work and school, instead of using the automobile. Sounds very good on the surface of it. This decision is rightfully hailed as a healthy choice and an air quality win, but there are ramifications to the big picture of transportation because of this prevailing policy choice in Holland. Even the Prime Minister sometimes gets a photo op riding his bike to work once every few years, but dark tinted window black cars follow close by/behind. Is this really saving the planet?
Amsterdam politicians chose many decades ago to ignore the car craze, felt it was jamming their system (it was) and instead campaigned heavily to let bikes prevail instead. Actively campaigning to get people on their bikes, and why not? It's flat, and they certainly did not have the room to build larger roads to accommodate large volumes of cars. As a result, cars in Amsterdam now travel pretty much at the SAME SPEEDS as bikes, because they literally trail a bike or two, while they share the narrow road, and with bikes also coming the other way they can't pass... so they essentially can't go any faster than the bikes. End result? Very little advantage of taking a car except to escape the weather or have enhanced travel accommodations such as privacy and carrying larger loads of people or cargo. So cars are used less. It has a very high hassle factor... by design. San Francisco has also opted to make using a car in that city have a very high hassle factor. Parking is scarce and very expensive. Only the very wealthy will participate without an impact. Vehicle lanes have also been converted to favor bikes and buses. It is difficult to drive your car in SF.
The US has car problems and traffic jams in many major cities. Amsterdam has bike problems and traffic jams also, and the minority car population there are severely impacted by bicycle users. It is nearly a flip flop of the situation we have in the US where bikes are impacted by cars because bike facilities are lacking, and in Holland, cars are impacted by bikes because the streets are full of them, literally.
Surely there is a transportation model where ALL MODES OF TRAFFIC can co-exist. It will take more space. It will take a redesign and a new paradigm. It will not succeed as long as certain planners and policy makers try and undermine the automobile systems in place. Current US efforts with Complete Streets are often missing the mark because bike fatality rates are on the rise. Safety is being ignored. This is because some transportation planners are not addressing the big picture, but have been neglecting vehicle congestion, delays, and level of service, where, if neglected, will increase delay, and possibly road rage for some, and compromise the safety of more vulnerable modes of traffic like bikes and especially pedestrians. An angry driver is a dangerous driver. The psychology of people should not be ignored.
The US should be leading the way to come up with the solutions to make transportation safe for all modes of travel. To this day, we have failed to eliminate the nearly 40,000 fatalities in vehicle related accidents every year in the US. I believe it to be because there is not a consensus of what to do, and competing interests, especially bike and pedestrian advocates, who are not considering the side-effects of blindly installing "complete streets" when it is not necessarily complete at all. All modes of traffic matter, and there has been a consistent effort to let traffic congestion fester, that possibly people will shift modes to ride a bike. News Flash is: this is not working. Vehicle ownership continues to rise, fatalities hover at a 40,000 per year, pedestrian fatalities are on the RISE as well as bike fatalities also are on the RISE.
Grant Johnson, registered Traffic Engineer, shares insights and experiences from around the world.