Monday, July 23, 2012

Peter and the Bicycle Superhighway

There's a article in the New York Times about the bicycle superhighway in Denmark. It's this stretch of bikeway that runs between Copenhagen and Albertslund, a nearby suburb. 11 miles of pavement just for bikes. But this isn't the first I've heard about it. In March, during our visit to Savannah, I heard about this bikeway when we met Peter from the Netherlands.

Peter was a friendly guy who had recently taken a job in the States. Over breakfast, before his scheduled bike tour around historic Savannah, we were able to talk a bit about biking in the Netherlands. The Dutch are internationally known for their “super-star” biking status. Their innovations in bicycling infrastructure and policies would make any entrepreneur or transportation engineer jealous. I soaked in all the international wisdom I could.

He talked about this superhighway and how it was the first of its kind. Innovations like this really helped all kind of bicyclists get from point A to point B on a daily basis. He talked about how biking is integrated into the culture, the lifestyle. Each member of his family had a bike, and they had an extra "junker" in the garage for house guests, totaling 6 bikes in the family. His three kids, including the one attending university, all rode their bikes to school. The kids have bicycling safety and education classes integrated into elementary curriculum. He talked about the fact that his eldest would like to own a car, but the cost of gas is prohibitively expensive for most Dutch. (Think like $15 or so a gallon.) The cost of owning a car was also more expensive than it is in the US.But since the country has invested in bikes since the 1960's, not owning a car isn't a big deal. 

I've also heard that the Dutch have done simple things like teach students in driver's ed to open the driver's side door with the right hand. This naturally causes a person to look over their left shoulder before the open a car door, and does a great deal to prevent incidents of "dooring."

Talking to someone who lived the life that I'd only heard about from others was such an exciting opportunity! It validated everything I'd heard, and he got a kick out of talking to a bicycle planner in the US. He was flattered to boast about the success of his country! We bonded over an international conversation, comparing notes about two different countries, two wheel transportation and a bowl of oatmeal.

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