Flip-side of the Amsterdam Coin

The damned thing is done. Sort of.

It’s not what I had originally intended. Last year, when I published a tongue-n-cheek trailer for this video, I was planning a documentary about bicycling in Springfield, Missouri with comparisons to Amsterdam (realizing, obviously, that such comparisons are difficult at best given the radically different contexts). The comparison was never the point. The point was — still is really — to caution people hereabouts (and all over the USA) about bicycle lanes and tracks.

Well, several things went wrong along the way — none of which are worth going into detail about. You can piece together most of it if you care to dig through a year’s worth of posts on this blog.

Anyway, think of this video as a draft. It’s rough in spots. It needs further work. I’ll be interested in your feedback for making it better.

By better, I mean helping me do the rhetorical work of furthering my point: Dutch bicyclists made a bad bargain in Amsterdam by surrendering the streets to cars and cramming themselves into lanes and tracks; we Americans ought not follow their example.

Get the popcorn ready. A cold beer wouldn’t hurt either. This is a video only traffic bicycling geeks can appreciate.

UPDATE: Many good suggestions for polishing this draft are flowing in by various means. Please keep suggestions coming. Known issues:

  • Length: This needs to be 15 minutes tops.
  • Hazards: Needs more explicit explanations of certain hazards.

UPDATE: I’ll keep a list of persuasive suggestions here:

  • Lose the parking segment; doesn’t advance the thesis
  • No long segments without verbal or textual commentary

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Comments 6

  1. JAT in Seattle wrote:

    Jan @50,
    You make a valid point; the future-cyclists wants should be addressed (and I’m calling those who might like to cycle but currently don’t future-cyclists rather than non-cyclists to distinguish from those who never will and don’t want to…)

    But you don’t make the complete point. Those who are already cycling should not be ignored – they are, after all uniquely qualified to address the state of existing infrastructure / road access.

    Furthermore the perspective of non-cyclists is frequently skewed by their perceptual biases. (that was my polite way of saying Wrong) Many want grade separated lanes and cycleways because they believe they are at risk of being rear-ended by motorists, whereas in practice this very rarely happens compared to right hooks, left crosses, etc.

    Unfortunately, the already much vilified vehicular cyclists’ message: “Oh, not, you don’t have to worry about that – you need to worry about this and here’s how you address it.” is perceived as “You must be fearless, and cycle lanes are ghettos!” And the infrastructure advocates capitalize on this and mis-characterize the actual crash statistics (counting right hooks as rear-endings, for instance) because after all we can’t fund separate infrastructure if we can’t make the safety case for it.

    I think you’re being a bit disingenuous about the aptness of mixing groups of racers and recumbent commuters with the very young, slow or electrically assisted on your grade separated facilities.

    Is three a cultural problem with multiple modes of transportation on a lot of American roads? Yes, and some motorists are incredibly intolerant of the perceived delays created by bicycles who wouldn’t bat an eye at being delayed by a school bus or a postal service van or even just another car not driving as fast as they’d like. But these cultural problems also exist on Dutch roads, there’s no need to be defensive about it.

    Posted 01 Nov 2013 at 12:50 pm
  2. Ian Brett Cooper wrote:

    The facilities advocates are always going on about how bike infrastructure is going to result in a blooming of potential cyclists just yearning to ride. They keep asserting the goodness and safety of Dutch facilities (despite the fact that in actual practice IN THE USA they are neither good nor safe) and how riding in the road is unrealistic and unsafe (despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans do it safely every day). While US bike lanes and paths have multiplied over the past few decades, the numbers of new American cyclists are anemic at best and may be explained purely in terms of existing cyclists who would have been riding close by and who change their route so they can ride traffic-free lanes/paths.

    The problem is, ridership isn’t about infrastructure, nor is it about a willingness to learn how to ride in traffic. People will start to cycle in droves when the economy forces them to do so, just as happened in every other country where cycling became popular. This never reached a tipping point in the US like it did in Holland, Denmark, etc., and it’s certainly not going to happen just because someone lays down special paths for cycling. Anyone who thinks it might is, in my view, delusional.

    But hey, we can argue until Hell freezes over, but it’s not going to stop the evangelists from preaching their car-phobic fantasy of a nation with bike lanes from sea to shining sea. This is why, in my opinion, allowing infrastructure evangelists on a blog about vehicular cycling is a mistake. All they do is troll.

    Posted 01 Nov 2013 at 2:49 pm
  3. lastwheel wrote:

    > despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Americans do it safely every day

    Did you ever get to watch my video? I’m a vehicular cyclist but I want segregation so probably your cognitive worst nightmare.


    Tell me how anyone other than a really dedicated rider is going to put up with that daily. I’ve been hit twice, in the last one thousand miles I’ve had 3 people get out of their car to fight me, and if I wasn’t an athlete and thus possessing a far greater than average spacial awareness I’d probably be dead (perhaps twice in that video). VC makes **me** safer but not safe, and it is unpleasant and obnoxious every day.

    > it’s certainly not going to happen just because someone lays down special paths for cycling.

    The busiest stretch for cyclists for me is always on a converted railway to “green way”. I see almost no one any other time and it’s the only stretch I see parents and kids on bikes. You are 50 years delusional and 50 years selfish.

    > troll

    If by troll you mean present arguments and evidence that leave you without a pedal to stand on then so be it.

    Posted 01 Nov 2013 at 3:07 pm
  4. Jan wrote:

    Wait a minute? I’m forced in some group of ‘infrastructure advocates’? I’ve never said the dutch model is perfect (I keep stressing that Amsterdam is horrible, and as long as the dutch goverment won’t ban scooters, every other place fails as well). I don’t care at all on what other countries will do, I just tried to shed some light on the cycling culture in the Netherlands, which is think is intriguing and quite unique. You can’t copy that, so any other culture will need different solutions, that’s fine. But the subject was some video about Amsterdam, and some derived statements about the rest of the Netherlands.

    After that, I got attacked on statements that riding in the door zone is safe (I repeat myself, it is safe, in the Netherlands. Not as safe as a separated path, but nothing so unsafe that you wouldn’t let a 6-year old do it without a helmet 🙂 )

    About mixing groups: I really think you should come over here. I’ve been racing for a long time, have lot of friends who do that, and I’ve never had any problems with riding on the cycle path. Of course, in the city you’re often trapped in traffic, but that’s the same on the road. In smaller towns and between them, bike paths are amazing facilities.

    I found a nice website with some images: and video: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/search/label/speed

    Posted 02 Nov 2013 at 1:08 am
  5. Michael wrote:

    Jan, a couple of things.

    Using Amsterdam as the model here actually works really well, because this is targeted at Americans and when Americans talk about cycling for daily transportation someone always brings up Amsterdam and then people pause and their eyes glaze over… American’s see the high cycling “mode share” that Amsterdam has and assume that it must be some sort of cycling nirvana. It’s good that someone has finally shown “the dark underbelly” of Amsterdam to the American cycling community.

    Some places in America have quite a lot of cycle paths. You can see cycle paths using Google Maps, check out Minneapolis, MN for an example. You can ride from Pittsburg PA to Washington D.C. using two “rails to trails” paths or take the Katy trail in Missouri from (almost) Kansas City to (almost) Saint Louis. I love cycle paths. I spend my vacations going around the country riding cycle paths. But, for my day to day commuting chances are there will never be cycle path for me to ride on.

    In America chances are there’s not going to be a cycle path there for most the time for people ride to school, work or the pub. Do to low mode share, low density development, most funding for things like cycle paths being local, the U.S. being flat broke and very politically dysfunctional chances are that there’s not going to be a cycle path in most Americans day to day future any time soon.

    Door zone cycling may be safe where you’re at, but in America where a lot of people people hardly ever parallel park, door zone cycling is one of the easier ways to get yourself killed.

    Posted 02 Nov 2013 at 6:45 pm
  6. Michael wrote:

    Andy, thanks for making this.

    15 minutes, some diagrams to show distances, and maybe a little more info on why what seems to be working in A’dam would translate poorly in America would be grand.

    Posted 02 Nov 2013 at 7:22 pm