U.S. cycling from a Dutch perspective

This week I came upon a video on Facebook by Bicycle Dutch called “U.S. Cycling from a Dutch Perspective.”  The video may have already made the rounds, but I’m posting it here because the (lack of) infrastructure and driver behavior in the U.S. and Chicago in particular have been on my mind lately, with several people I know being hit by drivers in the past year (including, of course, myself).

As the video says, “This situation makes clear why you are 30 times more likely to get injured as a cyclist in the  U.S. than in the Netherlands.”  This is a outrage and needs to change.

A few more choice quotes from the video:

“It almost looks as if these people are riding a race, rather than going home after work.  They’re trying to outrun other traffic.  It really seems like a chase.”

“There’s a lot of cycling here despite the infra[structure], rather than because of it.”

“There could be a good future for cycling in the U.S.”

I hope so.




12 thoughts on “U.S. cycling from a Dutch perspective

  1. Thom Wilson says:

    Thanks Dottie, a real eye opener.
    “Perseverance Furthers”, as they say – we need to keep advocating
    for improved bike recognition.

    How are you feeling about the Mayor’s efforts to fulfill his campaign
    promises regarding bike lanes?
    Cheers, glad you’re back.

  2. Grace says:

    Thanks for sharing Dottie. While it’s nice to see the ongoing bike infrastructure improvements here in Chicago, we still have a L O N G way to go. I was reminded of that yesterday when Divvy-biking westbound on Madison through the Loop – bike lane disappears at Wacker and then it’s a crazy, mad gauntlet until you get to Halsted. No fun and I definitely felt like I was in a race to keep enough distance between me and the buses. I dream of biking like it is in the Netherlands.

  3. Steve says:

    I found the observations on the biking habits of Americans interesting. After following your blog for some time, I decided to explore Dutch styled bikes. I liked the review you did on Pilen bikes, and after testing several Dutch bikes out, bought the Pilen Lyx. I now ride to work in my work clothes, enjoy the lakefront path, and feel safer because I’m not racing to work. All this is a preface to the following two points:

    1) I receive compliments on my bike weekly. People are really interested in what I’m riding, how I’m riding, and why. These are strangers, not people I know; and

    2) Shortly after purchasing my Pilen, a taxi cab cut me off on Van Buren. At the next light, I rode up next to the taxi and stopped. I wasn’t really angry, because being cut off is pretty typical. But, the taxi driver rolled down his window and leaned out. I thought he was going to yell at me. Instead, he asked me if he cut me off. I said, well, yes he did, but maybe I could have been in a better spot. He said, “I’m really sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.” !!! NEVER has such a thing happened to me. I wonder if the fact I was riding like a guy going to work, and not like a guy riding a race made a difference. Perhaps the Mary Poppins affect you’ve described elsewhere.

    Anyway, this blog really changed my thinking on biking. And, my experiences thus far have been reaffirming.

  4. anniebikes says:

    Thank you for that video. I have long thought that automobile drivers act like racers, continually jockeying for position to be first in line at the next traffic light. If we as cyclists, are seen as racers (I’m thinking of city cycling), it’s not because we want to come in first, we just want to be seen by automobile drivers, which often necessitates maneuvering so we’re visible.

    Interesting to note: when I haven’t driven for a while and I have to get in the car, I tend to drive slow. If I drive quite a bit, I notice my driving habits deteriorate and suddenly I’m exceeding the speed limit. I’m racing to get all my errands done!

    I never race on my bike to get all my things done.

  5. Dennis Hindman says:

    Here’s another video by the same Bicycle Dutch blogger that goes over the history of how the Dutch got their bicycle paths:

    A more upbeat video by the Dutch Bicycling Embassy which briefly presents some of the same information and then for the rest of the video it shows a woman cycling around on a Oma bike to some great looking indoor bike parking facilities and over a stunning bridge for bicycles.

    Seeing what the Dutch have achieved gives me hope and inspiration of what can transpire in the U.S. with enough political will for change.

  6. Sarah W. says:

    I love that video.

    I recently moved from Nashville to a suburb of Detroit. Although I wouldn’t call it a complete bike infrastructure, there are paved paths for biking and walking that are separated from roads by four or eight or more feet of grass. These paths go along residential streets and commercial streets, for an incredible 82 miles!

    Also, there is a rails-to-trails path behind my apartment complex that is 16 miles long, goes straight to “downtown,” and connects to other rails-to-trails paths. The path behind my apartment is paved with recycled asphalt, which I find a bit bumpier than paved roads and paths but it is away from car traffic and there are clearly marked street crossings when the path does cross traffic.

    I’m very pleased!

  7. LGRAB says:

    Very interesting to see an outsider’s perspective. I think we’re in a major transition period in the States right now. Hopefully we’ll look back in a few years and see some major changes for the better…

  8. I thought it was funny that he described some of the scenes as a ‘race.’ They looked pretty normal to me, but as he talked more I realized that yeah, a lot of my commute may be sort of ‘race-like’. Good observations.

  9. Karen says:

    I love this video. Yes, it definitely feels like a race here in Phoenix. I’m hopeful that things are changing as we have a growing culture of people who have decided they like the slower pace of the bike. And really, when the temperatures are above 100, who wants to sprint?

  10. Brandi Copher says:

    I ride in NYC and it def feels like a race. I’m passed on my oma bike often but don’t care. Our infrastructure is improving but I could def relate to the taxi in the bike lane or being cut off by all sorts of drivers, including police, as seen in the video. We have separated lanes but they aren’t enforced and everyone parks in them. Biking in the city isn’t for the faint of heart but hopefully with the Citi bike share program, things will improve. More advocacy is definitely needed to improve the infrastructure and make it safer. As the days are getting shorter, I’m not looking forward to riding at night with less cyclists out and about.

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