Bay Area Goes Dutch, Embraces Bicycling
With people of all ages hopping on their bikes to get around, it is evident that bicycling is on the rise across the entire Bay Area. Bicycling has become so popular that elected officials from San Francisco, San Jose, and Marin County visited the Netherlands – bicycling capital of the world where 27% of trips in the entire country are made by bicycle – to learn from the experts how they made bicycling such a success.
Everyday bicycling in Amsterdam. Photo credit: Marc van Woudenberg
On the Commons recently looked at how the Bay Area cities are utilizing knowledge gained from a visit to the Netherlands and moving forward with projects to help make bicycling safer, and more convenient.
The Bay Area group visited a primary school where 95% of students arrived by bicycle and saw the streets of Amsterdam where 41% of trips are by bicycle. But perhaps the most inspiring to the Bay Area visitors was the most American-like Dutch city, Rotterdam:
Even more than Amsterdam or Utrecht, the Bay Area visitors were excited by what they saw in Rotterdam, which has recently boosted biking to 22 percent of all trips in a city that is reminiscent of the U.S. with wide roads crowded with speeding traffic. While not considered exemplary by Dutch standards, the industrial port city is a great role model for the U.S. because of its post-war, car-centric planning and urban design. “This is what we’re up against back home,” explained Bob Ravasio, a realtor and council member in Corte Madera.
In Rotterdam and throughout the Netherlands key measures for encouraging bicycling are: 1) Separating bike lanes from motorized traffic by physical barriers and visually through paint 2) Traffic calming devices 3) Special treatment at busy intersections to allow safe crossing like bicycle only phases. Together these elements not only make bicycling safe and convenient but they also make bicycling accessible and comfortable to people of all ages.
Taking cues from the Dutch, progress is visible in San Francisco
San Francisco officials have installed 2.5 miles of protected bike lanes similar to separated Dutch bikeways on stretches of four streets. Another 2.6 miles are in the works right now, and separated bike lanes on Market Street, San Francisco’s main commercial thoroughfare, have been expanded.
Meanwhile San Jose is busily implementing bike path river trails and “bicycle boulevards”, residential streets that prioritize bicycling and walking over cut-through traffic. In Marin County a new bike-pedestrian trail that connects the northern part of town to the rest of the city via a newly opened rail tunnel to Larkspur, which cuts 20 minutes off the trip between the two communities.
Read the full On the Commons article for more about how the Bay Area is embracing bicycling.