Safer Streets for Cyclists: How the Dutch Perceive Cycling in the US & How You Can Help Change Our Roads

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At some time or another, we’ve all made a poor choice on the road, or gasped as we watched cyclists run red lights, ride across crosswalks, or take the wrong lane. I, for example, was once forced onto a sidewalk by a combo of road work, traffic, and unfriendly traffic lights. I crossed the wrong direction through an outlet, and nearly got hit because the driver wasn’t looking my way. But that was my fault. I knew better. I should have got off and walked my fancy racing bike and lycra-clad person to the other side of the road. But why was there no other way for me to cross or join the traffic? I considered this as I watched a short documentary on cycling in the US from the perspective of the Netherlands. The Dutch have got a few things right when it comes to sharing the road, which is why they’re one of the most bike-friendly places in the world.

Take a look at the aforementioned documentary (embedded below), and see just how car-centric our infrastructure can be. Cycling here can often take some nerve. Whether or not you know you’re technically another car on the road with all the same rules, rights, and responsibilities, not many motorists seem to understand this fact. So what does this sort of thing force us into? Sidewalks, weaving in and out of parked cars, riding in door zones, getting passed too closely when a driver should wait behind us, etc. etc. etc. There’s plenty of shared blame to go around: cars and cyclists. So what do the Dutch have to say?

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Now, if you’re curious what life is like for cyclists in the Netherlands, and why the Dutch have it better than us, check out this video by Andrej Ruščák that explains a little about the state of cycling in one Dutch city:

Whether or not you’re now jealous or contemplating a move to the Netherlands, we will hopefully see changes in the future to make our sport (or commute or joy-ride) more respected and visible here in the US. In California, we’re excited by the new 3′ passing law, and hope there’s more where that came from. So what can we do as cyclists? Well, first we can obey the rules of the road (I know, even if it’s totally lame to stop at red lights, it’s still totally cool). Second, we can do something as simple as signing petitions. Start someplace like the California Bicycle Coalition if you’re in the big CA, or even People for Bikes. Being involved is the popular thing to do–and we all want to be popular, right? *Cough*

So what do you think? Does the Netherlands sound great, or are you like me and wondering how it goes with the lycra-clad speed chasers?

About Bek 301 Articles
SLO Cyclist's former chief editor and recovering road snob, Bek made sure everything ran smoothly around here. She was also the one who reminded us not to take ourselves too seriously--unless it involves black socks. Black socks are always serious.

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