Traffic lights and streets are designed so cyclists and cars rarely meet
Those familiar with the Dutch know that they love their bicycles. But their love isn’t a “neon yellow spandex” type of love. Rather, it’s a dependence and reliance on bikes as a daily form of transport; a substitute for cars, taxis, walking, and buses. While it’s hard not to appreciate this healthy, zero-emission way of getting around, integrating bikes and cars on the same roadways can prove to be very difficult.
For that reason, the Dutch try to keep the two types of traffic as separate and segregated as possible. The bikes don’t slow down the cars, and the cars don’t run over the bikes. But such integration isn’t easy, as any American urban cyclist can attest.
In fact, the integration, at least at first glance, is really complicated by American traffic standards:
But, once you’re explained this intimidating layout, you realize the brilliance is actually in the simplicity of the design.
Bikes, whenever possible, get a buffer curb along roadways to ensure their own safe space from car traffic. At the intersections, this buffer comes in the form of curved islands that allow cyclists to make turns without having to cross moving traffic.
What really makes all this infrastructure work seamlessly is the timing and role of the traffic lights. Each type of traffic, bikes and cars, can get their own set of red and green lights. This allows for bikes to not only move safely through intersections without worrying about turning traffic but also allows them to pass through an intersection then turn left on the far side with little delay or interruption.
The innovative mechanisms don’t stop there, as the cities have instituted all sorts of devices and policies to ensure that cyclists can smoothly cruise around town without worrying about becoming some car’s hood ornament.
This video shows just how much thought the Netherlands have put into their streets to make them bike-friendly. Check it out. American cities could learn a lot.