Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Have the Dutch Reached Critical Mass, for Bikes?!

When it comes to sustainable and fun travel alternatives, nothing beats a bicycle. But while cities across the world slowly begin to expand their cycle-friendly infrastructure in hopes of easing motor vehicle traffic, the Dutch are in the midst of an entirely different problem -- a few too many bikes.
While it may sound like a first-world problem of the highest degree, on par with having too much ice cream and not enough spoons, for folks living in the Netherlands, an overload of cyclists is becoming a serious issue.

In a country with a sprawling 20,000 mile network of world-class bike lanes and daily ridership of numbering in the millions, it's fair to say the the Dutch are the biggest cycle-lovers around. But with an average of 1.3 bicycles per resident, things have gotten crowded -- resulting in bike parking shortages, cycling traffic jams, and even fits of lane-rage.

"Bicycles are an integral mode of transport in our city," says the city council of Amsterdam, home to half a million riders daily. "[But] the busiest bicycle paths are too small for the growing stream of daily cyclists."

From the AFP:
Proposed solutions were remarkably similar to those previously used to deal with car congestion, ranging from building multi-storey underground "mega" bicycle sheds to impounding badly-parked bikes. Municipal workers in The Hague alone have impounded 2,400 illegally parked bicycles since August. And Amsterdam this week announced a mega 120-million-euro ($154 million) investment plan to provide 38,000 new bicycle parking spots and 15 extra kilometres of red bicycle path in the city.
While the problems plaguing the Dutch might be used as some misguided argument against other cities adopting infrastructure for cyclists, all that bike riding is actually saving a tremendous amount of space compared to other locales where car usage rates are showing similar increases. And sure, the stresses of a busy commute, in whatever form, can lead to folks getting a bit hot under the collar -- but at least cyclists in the Netherlands are doing their part to not pass that heat on to the planet.


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