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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