Cycling in the snow. Photo credit: Amsterdamize
When a quarter of all trips within the entire country are done by bicycle it’s difficult to imagine much could be done to make cycling more attractive in the Netherlands. Then the municipality of Eindhoven unveiled it’s spectacular aerial roundabout for bikes that lets cyclists fly over motorized traffic.
More recently the city of Groningen – where almost 60% of all trips are by bicycle – yet another innovation has come about to make cycling even more attractive and convenient. It’s just a test at the moment, but the city is installing sensors at certain intersections that will change to give cyclists on bike paths green lights faster if it is snowing or raining. In a country infamous for its rain, cyclists may find themselves getting priority quite often! Also, by getting shorter wait times during inclement weather, cyclists are probably less likely to run red lights– thus this test is likely to improve safety as well.
Another attempt to make cycling more pleasant in times of harsh weather has been the idea to heat bike paths when it’s snowing. The purpose of this is to reduce the need to salt and clear popular bike routes of snow as well as reduce the risk of people slipping and getting injured if a bike path is slick from being partially frozen.
Will The Bay Area Ever Be That Bike Friendly?
It may seem like cycling conditions could never be as good here as they are in The Netherlands, but keep in mind the Dutch haven’t always been bike friendly, they oriented their cities towards the automobile for a while too. Also, currently city officials from major San Jose and San Francisco are actually getting help from Dutch planners to make cycling more appealing. San Francisco in particular has seen great leaps in the levels of cycling in just the past five years despite its hilly topography. San Francisco has also pioneered the concept of the “green wave,” which synchronizes traffic lights to the speed of the bicycle rather than the automobile, on popular bike corridors to make cycling effortless. With Bay Area cities leading in bike commute rates nationally, it seems like we may well be on our way to someday see the levels of cycling that exist in The Netherlands; perhaps we should view this as a sign of encouragement to maximize the potential for cycling to be a viable form of transportation and help address our climate and traffic problems.