Video Review: Cycling in the U.S. from a Dutch Perspective


Mark Wagenbuur is an experienced Dutch cyclist with a strong internet presence. He posts blog entries and videos about cycling culture and infrastructure around the world from a Dutch perspective. The video embedded above is a brief analysis of the American cycling experience. I’ll highlight a few of his main points.


The clothes people wear for cycling is one of the most instantly visible differences between Dutch and American cyclists, as highlighted briefly in my previous post. A big part of this is that Dutch cyclists don’t generally consider themselves “cyclists” as we do in America. They are just people. Cycling is a normal way to travel, and so it is not so critical to establish a cyclist identity by wearing specific clothing. The Dutch just wear what they want to wear for their normal daily activities. For women, this can mean  skirts and high heels, and for men, this can mean full suits. Or just a t-shirt and jeans. Whatever is normally worn is fine for cycling.

I participated in “suit cycling” this past January when I was in Washington, DC for the Transportation Research Board annual meeting. Chain guards make a big difference, which are standard for Dutch bicycles.

DC Bike Photo

Me with a Capital Bike Share bike in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC in January 2014.


Traffic Stress

Traffic stress can make a huge difference in how and where one chooses to ride their bicycle. It can even effect whether you feel safe bringing vulnerable passengers along on your bike (see below). A woman would likely be ridiculed for transporting her child on a bicycle in most places in America (though I’ve seen it a number of times in Portland!) When traffic speeds are slow and volumes are low, bicycle transportation can be less of a race. Notice the lack of helmets in the picture below.


Infrastructure and Cycling Prevalence

My various statistics classes have made me cautious about inferring causality, but it can certainly be said that more bicycle infrastructure doesn’t lower the amount of cyclists on the road. Studies have shown that infrastructure investments and cycling mode share at the very least correlate, if not co-depend.

More cyclists can also help to make cyclists safer, as shown by research into the “Safety in Numbers” idea.



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