When cycling between Dutch cities, I noticed bike infrastructure is as proliferative in suburban areas as in more central and denser areas. It’s a continued and comprehensive network of cycle tracks that would take you from your home to the city center, a few miles away. Like suburbs in America, a Dutch suburb does have big retail boxes, plazas, and big parking lots.
I have always thought that cycle tracks implementation in urban areas should be priority number one but I don’t think that’s necessary the case anymore. It’s the suburbs that actually need cycle tracks as much or more than in the city. Urban cities in the States already have walkable neighborhoods and decent public transits, where suburbs don’t and their public transit is insufficient.
In the States, suburban cities dominate the landscape and once couples have kids, it is almost always the case they move to suburbs for larger homes with yards, better schools and more personal safety. And that’s where suburbs stop. Streets are actually more dangerous for kids because of cars and wider streets with higher speed limits to facilitate driving even more. Many suburbs have urbanised and become congested with cars. If you’ve driven through San Mateo in Northern California or San Gabriel of Southern California, you know what I am talking about. The effect of children getting driven everywhere, relying on their parents, and lock inside at home must not be good for their welfare. These problems can be reversed simply by having bike infrastructure.
It’s actually easier to build bike infrastructure in suburban than in urban cities. The real estate is cheaper and there’s a lot of space. We have seen some American suburban cities have started to follow suit. Some California suburban cities like Davis, Palo Alto, and Berkeley (all college towns) have done quite a bit but don’t go far enough to provide complete street safety for all ages. We see ‘bicycle blvds.’ on side streets but lack traffic calming features. On major streets, the famous ‘bike lanes’ to the left of parked cars is not going to reduce collisions with cyclists. There are ‘greenways’ where bike paths are away from streets but they are short and don’t go everywhere. Off-street bike paths are very popular in residential areas of the Netherlands.
Suburbs will only get more congested and road space for cars is going to get harder to remove, so city officials need to get very serious sooner than later.
In the Part 1 of the post, I mentioned about how “beautifully landscaped” cycle tracks are within Dutch city limits. Now, I want to dedicate Part 2 of this post to illustrate how continuous (although, this is very difficult to capture with photos) and wide they can be.
When I was in Den Bosch about a week and half ago, I was fortunate to have Andre Engels and Mark at BicycleDutch to show me around. I remembered Mark telling me that when we were on this route, he said that we didn’t have to stop for 5 km (3 miles). How is that possible, right?
To provide safety from high volume traffic on surface streets, many cycle tracks become continuous via elevated and tunneled cycle tracks (see second and third photos from top). A great example of elevated cycle track to avoid intermixing with cars is the Eindhoven Hovenring. This is what makes riding on Dutch cycle tracks to die for. You can go a really long distance without ever have to stop. I haven’t even brought up about bike paths that go through residential areas and parks, and they are even more continuous.
Secondly, roundabouts at intersections are one of the smartest urban street designs. It’s efficient and I think it makes drivers drive better. What’s even smarter is the protected roundabouts for cyclists. I am not going into safety for now, but this is how you get cyclists riding continuously without losing momentum. Most roundabouts at low auto traffic volume usually are of this type which cars by law are supposed to yield to you while you keep riding through (the above photo is a specific type of roundabout for cyclists which is the first of its kind, described here).
Finally, in the previous post, I did briefly mentioned that many Dutch cycle tracks are wide to accommodate conversational cycling but didn’t exactly emphasize the wideness. Immediately outside city centers, cycle tracks become ridiculously wide and I love it! Some cycle tracks inside city centers are relatively wide too, as can be seen in the above photos. The wideness makes passing another cyclist easily. I never have trouble passing other cyclists and most of the time, I don’t have to ring my bell. The wideness also makes it easy to have all kinds of cargo bikes on them.
In addition, it can hold more cyclists particularly during peak hours. At every single light that turns green for bicycles, the last cyclist in the peloton always have time to cross. I know this because I am always the last one.
Some commenter said to me, “why the need to go see touristy attractions when you got cycle tracks?” This is so true. I am always amazed just being on them.