lunes, 6 de abril de 2015

Cycling in the US from a Dutch perspective

Watch this video filmed in 2013 in Chicago, San Francisco, Davis (California) and the Lake Tahoe (Nevada) area where a Dutch cyclist analyses how different cycling is in the US compared to his home country.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 American cyclists dress differently.
2 Drivers cannot be trusted to play by the rules.
3 Cycling in US is mainly considered a leisure activity.
4 You are forty times more likely to have an accident as a cyclist in the US than in the Netherlands.
5 It's normal to see cyclists riding on the pavements.
6 The infrastructure for cyclists in US is limited.
7 Some cyclists are careless.
8 Bike lanes also have disadvantages.
9 Coloured bike lanes are no good.
10 US cyclists don't seem to respect bike signals.
11 You can park your bike on a bus if travelling on it.
12 The number of bike shops have decreased.
13 Share-bike systems are a good idea.
14 Seeing cyclists in ordinary clothes is a good sign.

Cycling in the U.S. is very different from the Netherlands. Not only the way people dress and behave, the type of bikes, but also the traffic in which they have to move around, the cause of all these differences. It takes courage to ride between motorized traffic like this. And you cannot trust drivers to play by the rules.
Cycling doesn't seem to be taken seriously. It's something children do, or those who haven't really grown up. And it's mainly seen as a leisure activity. People cycle on specific tracks and not to get from A to B. Others take their bikes on their car to get to some fun place where they can ride. Although I cannot believe riding here is really fun or safe at all. This situation makes clear why you are 30 times more likely to get injured as a cyclist in the U.S. than you are in the Netherlands. It gets even worse with a door zone of parked cars.
It is not so very different in the cities. It almost looks like 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. No wonder some choose to ride on the pavements or crosswalks. Even in places where the situation is different, where there is more cycling, and much more relaxed cycling, less racing, and more cycling from A to B for everyday purposes, and not as a sport.
Sometimes it almost looks Dutch, although the infra is very different. Even in Davis, California, I hardly saw any specific cycling infra. And that's probably why some people still choose to ride in Lycra and with helmets. No wonder, if your left turn looks like this. You have to cycle surrounded by motor traffic. Not everybody seems to care, though. But there's a lot of cycling here despite the infra, rather than because of it.
In other places, new cycle infra does seem to appear. And I don't mean share rows, which is just useless paint, and wears off pretty soon, too. Still paint, but a little better, are bike lanes popping up everywhere, but the big disadvantage of those lanes is demonstrated here, cars can invade them, and that was also not a good time to start driving again.
Colored bike lanes might be better respected. It sure seems to be more relaxed to ride here. It is even better without parked cars. Some physical protection, even though they're just plastic posts, is a further improvement.
Chicago goes yet a step further with a line of parked cars between track and roadway, but it is still not much more than paint. Curbs would make it prettier and less easy to reverse. I am no big fan of left-turn boxes, especially not when they're in the wrong location. It should have been positioned here.
Now this is more like it. Bike signals. The sign seems a bit too obvious in Dutch eyes, but that only shows how novel they are here. What is even better, the green cycle is different from that of turning motor traffic. Now that is good bike infra, but it is surprising that that explanation for motor traffic is also needed.
The bike counter in San Francisco is nice, to make cycling more visible, but good bicycle parking stands, like these in Davis, have a real purpose. Chicago has great racks in transit stations. Not heavily used yet, but that may come. Bikes on buses are only possible with low numbers of users, but it's good to have. I saw more bike shops that before, and that is also a good sign. Shared bikes may make cycling even more accessible to even more people. It's a good thing many cities in the U.S. are getting a shared bike system. It may change the type of cycling from this more racing type to a more relaxed variety with which more people can identify.
And bakfiets may be a step too far for most, but seeing more upright cyclists in ordinary clothes would be very positive. There could be a good future for cycling in the U.S

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