Amsterdam: Cycling to sustainability

Marc Gunther has a nice post up on cycling in Amsterdam. Cycling does work very well in Dutch cities (flat terrain, extensive bike lanes). Marc was enjoying cycling in the northern spring. When the northern winter arrives he will find it less comfortable: wet, cold and dark. All in all, cycling works — you do have to be hardy to stick with it in the winter.

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So what is Amsterdam doing right?

First, dedicated bike lanes are everywhere—not just on the major streets, but on side streets, through city parks and, of course, along the canals.

Parking your bike? No problem. Not only does the city provide bike racks everywhere, but there are a parking garages for bikes like this one at the central train station. Private garages provide underground parking, too–in part because theft’s a big problem.Amsterdam_17

Where there aren’t racks or garages, people improvise. This is what you see outside most bus and tram stations.

(…) The bike lanes themselves are crowded, too.. You need to signal your turns, watch out for crossing traffic, be wary of cars and pedestrians.

In this regard, the Dutch are not very good role models. Here’s an excerpt from a brochure that MacBike gives out:

Do not behave like many people hurrying through Amsterdam, by not giving right of way, charging through red lights or cycling through pedestrian areas. Stop for red (cycle) traffic lights.

Strangely, most people don’t wear helmets. And bike theft is a big problem, with about 20% of bikes being stolen each year. My rental came with chain lock as well as a separate key that locks the wheel when the bike is parked. So this city isn’t quite a biker’s paradise.

I did come across two ideas that could be imported to the U.S.:

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Please continue reading… there’s more good ideas to ponder.