Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Bicycle Infrastructure

Dutch Planners School U.S. Cities on Bikeability

In the Netherlands, 30 percent of trips under five miles are by bike.

I know, I know, Euro-envy can get a little old. So the Dutch are trying to give us a little less to be jealous of. What if our streets were as bike-friendly as theirs?

We could get there. Our trip patterns aren’t dramatically different from theirs: most trips in this country are under four miles, or 20 minutes by bike. But here, people drive those short distances. What would it take to get more of us to go by bike?

In September, the Dutch embassy facilitated collaborative workshops between Dutch and local planners and engineers in Toronto and Chicago, evaluating bike facilities in those cities and making recommendations for improvements. This week, they gave their report card to Washington, DC. Next year: Miami and San Francisco; possibly Baltimore and Memphis.

They give specific recommendations for specific intersections and corridors, guided by principles of continuity and bi-directionality. Bikes, the Dutch like to say, flow like water. In DC, their suggestions included two-way cycle tracks (even on one-way streets) with buffers separating them from traffic, expanding public plaza areas, installing bike signals, bike-only connections where roads cut off, sharper turns at intersections, colored bike lanes and more.

As Cor van der Klaauw, a Dutch cycling planner, said, “I think most of the bikers from Holland, when they will cycle in your country, will think, ‘well, there are no facilities.’” But he also said he found some impressive bike innovations in DC – “We learned a few things which we can take back to Holland.”

On a national scale, there are things we can do to boost bike ridership. They’re not necessarily as sexy as cycle tracks but the Dutch visitors say they make a difference.

They say we make it too cheap to drive. Getting a driver’s license is cheap. Gas is cheap. Parking is cheap. Excise taxes on car purchases: cheap.

And we get our kids started off wrong by driving them to school every day. The Dutch planners say the U.S. doesn’t invest enough in school buses, and our streets often aren’t safe enough for kids to bike to school. In the Netherlands, 50 percent of trips to school are made by bicycle.

Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), a co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus, told DC workshop attendees, “We are engaged in a bipartisan war against couch potatoes here in the United States. I think it’s been won for some considerable time, for a variety of reasons, in the Netherlands.”

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Wednesday’s Headlines Got the Worried Blues

Transit agencies listen to that whistle blow. They're going where they never gone before.

July 17, 2024

Study: More Evidence That Safer Streets Don’t Hurt Local Business

...more insight into why people simply don't believe it.

July 17, 2024

Transit Planning Guru Jarrett Walker Discusses Chicago’s Transit Challenges

Walker, a consultant with the two system, talks about how to improve service. He won't "disagree with their managements in public," but says he's genuinely against the proposed merger.

July 16, 2024

Don’t Believe the Hydrogen Train Hype

Calling hydrogen-powered trains "zero emission" is misleading at best - and even if they were, they lost the race to be "first" a long time ago.

July 16, 2024

Tuesday’s Headlines Turn Up the Heat

Triple-digit heat, fueled by climate change, is warping rail lines, interrupting construction work on transit lines and causing burns on sidewalks.

July 16, 2024
See all posts