Archive | Netherlands Trip

Who Needs an SUV?!

One of the most striking things we saw in the Netherlands was whole families traveling together by bike. Perhaps the most touching scene, which we saw several times, was a parent riding side-by-side with a younger child, with a hand outstretched on the child’s shoulder to guide him or her.

While unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of that scene, I did get a number with mothers transporting younger children by bike, plus bikes outfitted for that purpose.
One of the most striking things we saw in the Netherlands was whole families traveling together by bike. Perhaps the most touching scene, which we saw several times, was a parent riding side-by-side with a younger child, with a hand outstretched on the child’s shoulder to guide him or her.

While unfortunately I didn’t get any photos of that scene, I did get a number with mothers transporting younger children by bike, plus bikes outfitted for that purpose.

Baby on Board

Shopping with Mom

In Traffic

The Dutch answer to the SUV

Double Seater

Lots of Room

Rear Seat

Trailer AND Rear Seat

Note the trailer AND the rear seat!

To Helmet or not to Helmet?

One of the powerful impressions I brought home from Amsterdam was that no one wears a bicycle helmet.

The message that sends is that cycling is a safe activity.

Does our culture’s insistence on helmets send the opposite message? Should I stop wearing my helmet to symbolize my conviction that cycling is a safe mode of transportation for everyday use? I know one Metro Councilor who has taken this approach (and another who wears his helmet assiduously).

On the other hand, we don’t have the infrastructure or culture that the Netherlands has.

Not one who leaps to judgement, I decided to experiment. On my bike/bus commute to work, I left the helmet home for a couple of trips.

My first reaction is that this let me wear a hat instead, which was much more helpful with current weather.

And most of the time I felt pretty comfortable.

But on the stretch of my commute that takes me down Barbur Blvd, I felt a little exposed, particularly on one rainy, dark late afternoon when I knew I wasn’t as visible to the drivers (yes, I have lights).

So here’s my tenative conclusion: when I’m just riding around the central city or on neighborhood streets, I’m going to give myself permission to leave the helmet at home.

If my trip is going to involve mingling with arterial traffic however, I’m going to wear my helmet.

What do you think, should I have my head examined?

Road Diet, Dutch Style?

Since I reflected on road diets in my last post, let me share these photos from the recent Netherlands trip. My guess is that this road may once have had more auto lanes and went on a road diet at some point.
Since I reflected on road diets in my last post, let me share these photos from the recent Netherlands trip. My guess is that this road may once have had more auto lanes and went on a road diet at some point.

With this post I’m also experimenting with a different way to display photos from Flickr, so I may be tweaking a bit.

A slip lane in the Netherlands

This street had a slip lane carved out of it. It was primarily used as a bicycle lane. Cars were ‘allowed’ to use it (including accessing parking), but they did not get priority.

A slip lane in the Netherlands 2

This lane served the neighborhood retail very well.

Traffic Circles in the Netherlands

One of the unique bicycle features in the Netherlands is that traffic circles (‘rotaries’ if you grew up on the east coast like I did) have a separate lane for bikes. Concrete islands help regulate the flow of autos to avoid conflicts with bikes.

www.flickr.com

Netherlands Traffic Circle portlandtransport’s Netherlands Traffic Circle photoset

One of the unique bicycle features in the Netherlands is that traffic circles (‘rotaries’ if you grew up on the east coast like I did) have a separate lane for bikes. Concrete islands help regulate the flow of autos to avoid conflicts with bikes.

The best part? Cyclists have priority in the traffic circles. Our delegation from Portland enjoyed this so much that we get kept circling for the joy of it. It was only after 3 circuits that we realized that we were preventing any cars from entering or exiting the circle. Oops…

Traffic Enforcement in the Netherlands

We had the opportunity to spend about two hours with Chief Smoorenburg during our visit to Amsterdam (the chief’s HQ was outside Utrecht, a one hour train ride, 30 minute tram ride and 20 minute walk from Amsterdam). The Chief is responsible for traffic enforcement for the county surrounding Utrecht.

We had the opportunity to spend about two hours with Chief Smoorenburg during our visit to Amsterdam (the chief’s HQ was outside Utrecht, a one hour train ride, 30 minute tram ride and 20 minute walk from Amsterdam). The Chief is responsible for traffic enforcement for the county surrounding Utrecht.

That’s PDOT bicycle coordinator Roger Geller (left) and BTA Executive Director Evan Manvel with the Chief.

Perhaps the first thing that we noted was that the Chief’s unit had 80 officers for an area with 1.1M residents. By way of comparison, Commander Bill Sinnott tells me that Portland, with a population of about 550,000, has 46 officers in the Traffic Division. So the resource levels are not radically different relative to population.

The secret to why accident rates in the Netherlands are much lower than the U.S. must lie somewhere else.

So with 25-40% of trips made by bicycle, where does the Chief focus his enforcement resources? On cars. That’s still where he believes the biggest potential reduction in accidents will come from.

But what about the bikes – do they run red lights? Yes, I’m afraid it’s a worldwide phenomenon [which I do not condone]. Of course, the stats on that may be different than in the U.S., since there are virtually no stop signs to run. During our time in Amsterdam we saw all of about three stops signs. Short of a traffic light, yield is the general way of dealing with conflicting traffic streams. This seems to make both cars and bikes pay more attention – and perhaps more respect – to each other.

Another eye-opener was the Chief’s response to complaints about speeding. When they are requested to do speed enforcement on a street, they first analyze the engineering of the street. If they conclude that the street is designed for a higher speed than the posted limit, they won’t try to bring the speeds down by enforcement – they turn the issue over to the transportation department to fix the road instead!