Can Dutch cycling lessons carry over to modern Los Angeles?

2010 Batavus Old Dutch Step-Through at Flying Pigeon LA

A testament to Dutch bicycle design: the 2010 Batavus Old Dutch step-through at Flying Pigeon LA

Dutch bicycles are the best at day-to-day transportation, their ridership is the highest in the developed world, their roads are some of the safest on the planet.

How did the Dutch end up developing such a bike-friendly transportation system? Can Los Angeles do something similar?

A very interesting blog post on the early history of Dutch cycle paths was published on June 21, 2010 on David Hembrow’s blog “A view from the cycle path …”

The post, “The attitude towards cycling infrastructure varies with its quality“, written by Mark Wagenbuur describes how the interaction of Holland’s Napoleonic roads, horse drawn carriages, and the rise of train travel led to a system of dedicated cycle paths across the country. Though very much a look back at Holland’s past, to me the post is prescient in how it describes the normalizing of bicycles as a mode of transportation. There was a time in Holland, after World War Two, when the Dutch tore out their cycle paths or simply did not construct any new ones next to post-war highways. The reasons that cycle path construction was later re-instituted is very relevant to the situation in Los Angeles: bicycle facilities can improve the flow of automobile travel, make the streets safer, and improve everyone’s quality of life and retail business prospects.

Can Los Angeles ever hope to do something similar? We can’t go back in time and change the way things happened here in L.A., but dealing with the common arguments against bicycle facilities with rebuttals based on safety, better traffic flow, and better sales at local shops will definitely help move the public debate forward, as it did in Holland.

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3 Comments

  1. Peter Steeves
    Posted July 3, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Of course it can … but will it? Just make it more convenient to ride than to drive, and any city will make the conversion. Even better, Los Angeles has a healthy population. We seem to value our appearances so much that everybody is heading to the gym to work-out (even though they drive there instead of bike right now), and waiting to be discovered as the next super-star, so we have a healthy population that can easily convert to bikes.

    Expand the bike lanes, preferably at the expense of some street parking. The city will likely hate to hear this, because they would stop receiving the absurd parking fees they collect, through enigmatic signs that confuse even the locals about when to park where. But that would make the people happier, and perhaps THAT would make a difference to the city officials. Healthier, happier citizens with less expensive lifestyles and less predatory-city-policies to worry about … we could have a pleasant place to live and work if we follow this road … especially if we bike it!

  2. Posted January 16, 2012 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    (This comment was left by Lake Forest based marketing firm 10th Degree on behalf of their client – an automobile dealer whose name starts with a G, ends with an N, and is obviously filled to the brim with santorum) -admin

    I have lived in Amsterdam and now live in L.A. No, the Angelenos will never cycle as the Dutch because L.A is huge. Can you imagine cycling from West Hollywood into the valley (Sherman Oaks etc) or from Malibu to Santa Monica? Amsterdam is a tiny city and very compact; L.A is massive and spread out plus we have a car culture here; most people don’t want to switch and can afford not to.

  3. Posted January 16, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    The barrier to cycling isn’t distance, people in LA don’t ride much for the majority of trips they take, which are under 5miles (and easily bikeable).

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  1. [...] Pigeon asks if the lessons learned by the Dutch translate to L.A. cycling. CicLAvia is halfway to their goal of raising $7,000. Bicycle Fixation [...]

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