Most cyclists in America are aware that the Netherlands is a cycling country. So much so, that nationwide, 27% of all trips in the Netherlands are by bicycle. Digest that statistic for a moment. That means, over one quarter of all trips in the Netherlands are by bicycle. So how’d the Dutch arrive there?
A lot of articles on the subject point to a movement in the 1970s calls “Stop de Kindermoord” which literally translates to English as “Stop the Child Murder.” The following is a quote from David Hembrow on a blog post of his:
1973 was also the year that the pressure group “Stop de Kindermoord” (“Stop the Child Murder”) started. The object of this group was to point out the number of deaths caused to children and to campaign to reduce them. They successfully influenced the Dutch government to re-emphasize building of segregated cycle paths, and to make money available to pay for them. This resulted in both a rise in cycling and a reduction in cyclist deaths, reversing the previous trend. It has been a success not only for child cyclists, but for all cyclists, and indeed for the population as a whole.
In my opinion, campaigning for children is the best way to make progress in America. People for Bikes has recently taken this idea and started their own campaign: Build it for Isabella. It’s a simple concept: “Every new bike project should strive to be usable by a 12-year old.”
When considering current designs of infrastructure in the Denver area, I have a hard time imagining Isabella riding on most of our infrastructure.
For example, can you envision her sharing the road when sharrows are involved?
What about even buffered bike lanes like this?
Or is this more like it?
The above looks like something Isabella could safely ride on, if she’s heading toward the photo. But what about the bike lane for those riding away from the photo?
I would also like to point out that protected tracks like pictured above are not enough. Protected intersections are also necessary. The Bannock cycle track posted above abruptly ends, leaving Isabella on the sidewalk, mixing with pedestrians and riding through crosswalks. (The sign in the photo below cautioning cyclists to slow has since been removed.) There is no clear indication of where she can safely ride from here.
We even have here in Denver, the first of what cycling advocates are calling a protected lane in the form of the 15th Street Bikeway. It has many positive design elements, such as:
- A protected buffer from the rest of traffic (done with plastic
- Intersection treatments, like green zebra strips.
- Bicycle signals at the end of the track.
Here again though, the design has serious deficiencies that would keep Isabella’s parents from considering it safe for her:
- “Mixing zones” where cars need to turn left across the bike lane.
- A lack of interconnected routes.
- Abrupt ending of the lane where cyclists must merge back in with traffic.
Denver can and should do better. If we ever want to cycling to reach double digits modal share, or to see our children cycling like the Dutch we need to do better. This video is something that I think we can achieve in American cities: