Feature: Going Dutch–Cycling Embassy Reaches Out to the San Francisco

Netherlands Spreads the Word on Getting Around on Two Wheels

Cycling is a great way to reduce
automotive traffic, especially in crowded urban settings. The residents of the
Netherlands are experts and want to help other nations understand the benefits
of cycling, build out cycling infrastructure and ride safely. To do this, they have
established the Dutch
Cycling Embassy

“The Dutch Cycling Embassy is a vast network of public and private
organizations from the Netherlands who wish to share their expertise on
building what supports the Dutch cycling culture to this interested.”

I recently attended an interesting
online presentation by the Embassy. The initial portion included an
introduction by Chris Bruntlett, the Embassy’s marketing and communications manager.
Derek Taylor of Goudappel also spoke. This was followed by a choice of three
simultaneous breakout sessions; I attended one on the design and building of cycling

Some Impressive Dutch Two-wheel

Netherlands map
More bikes than people

The Netherlands is the number one
country in the world in bike ridership. This nation of 17 million residents owns
23 million bikes—more than one per person! They take five million bike trips each
year, averaging about 621 miles per person. There are 202 cities and towns
where bike share actually exceeds car share (for trips shorter than 4.7 miles).
And today, 18 percent of bike trips are by electrical assist, and 26 percent of
all miles ridden are by e-bikes.

What helps it run so well is that
cycling is incorporated into the public transit system. Half of all train trips
begin with a bicycle ride to the station. The Embassy’s slides showed vast bike
parking facilities there.

Goudappel Coffeng

Derek Taylor, the mobility analyst and business developer from
Goudappel Coffeng spoke.

is a Netherlands-based company with 60 years of mobility planning
experience and currently has 250 experts on staff. Its slogan is “Mobility
Moves Us” (Mobiliteit beweegt ons).
Derek lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and understands what’s relevant to
the local community.

The Netherlands, the world’s transport-safest country, has a
balanced modal share—30 percent car, 30 percent public transit, 30 percent
bikes and 10 percent pedestrian (or other). And it’s fully integrated, too, with
residents using a single card for local, regional and international travel.

Dutch one card system
One card to rule them all

Derek described the similarities between the Dutch Randstad
Economic Region and the Bay Area. The Randstad encompasses the four largest
cities in the Netherlands, which are located in the western part of the country.
The four cities are Amsterdam, Utrecht, Rotterdam and The Hague. This maps
fairly closely to the Bay Area, which includes the cities of San Francisco, San
Jose and Oakland, and all the smaller cities in between.

A huge difference, though, is that the Bay Area uses a lot more
cars! For comparison, the car to non-car ratio in Amsterdam is 30/70 percent
while it’s 88/12 percent in San Jose—utterly the opposite. How do they do that
in the Randstad?

The answer is, they take an integrated approach to mobility
planning and land use planning, considering the urban form, buildings and
special design. Dutch cities have even created some car-free zones.

A good way to remove cars is to make it easy to live without them,
so there is a hierarchy of travel modes, all integrated:

  • International–high speed trains
  • Interregional–Intercity trains
  • metropolitan–metro, light rail, commuter rail
  • local–trams, buses, cycling

The Bay Area doesn’t have this kind of integration, and there’s
really no land-based international travel. As it is, about 7.7 million people
live in the Bay Area, and the area has the fifth largest GDP in the U.S. In a
challenge for cycling, 33 percent of Bay Area residents work in a different
county from where they live, and 75 percent drive to work. According to Derek, traffic
congestion has increased 80 percent since 2010, especially at high travel
times, and it was growing rapidly (in pre-pandemic times).

Many people live within 1.25 miles of an existing rail station
(BART and CalTrain) and could possibly cycle to the station and take transit if
the transit system was set up for it. Derek talked about catchment zones, which
have five percent of the land but 51 percent of the jobs and are good transit
hubs. So, for example, the Salesforce Transit Center in downtown San Francisco is
ideal, and commuters could bike to the train stations and go to work from
Salesforce (or even in it—it’s the tallest building in San Francisco). This of
course is in the world after COVID-19 is under control.

The E-Bike Design and Planning Breakout

The three speakers in this session
taught me a lot about how cycling infrastructure decisions are made and how those
beautiful Dutch bike paths and structures get designed and built.

Kennisplatform Crow

Bicycle parking
A place to park

Kennisplatform Crow is an e-bike
design and planning company in the Netherlands. Project manager Hillie Talens talked
about how Crow considers the user’s perspective in design decisions. The
Netherlands has a road classification system that helps develop guidelines for

  • Motorways (no bicycles)
  • Access roads
  • Distributor roads (to connect them)

Hillie discussed five safety
principles that Crow considers when designing cycling paths and structures:

Functionality–It does the job as well as possible.

Homogeneity of mass, speed, and direction–moving at the same speed helps avoid accidents.

Recognizability of road design and predictability of the road course and
road user behavior
–signage is consistent and placed consistently.

Forgivingness of the environment (physical and social)–help eliminate problems by
allowing room for errors and enough space for safe passage.

State awareness by the road user.

long distance biking
In Netherlands, bikes have their own highways

Crow considers five main bicycle infrastructure requirements:

Coherence–The system is complete, connected and consistent, and cyclists have no
trouble finding their way. Bicycles combine well with cars and public transit
and offer route choices.

Directness–Eliminate unnecessary detours and allow for a constant speed with a minimum
of delays.

Attractiveness–Include variety and surprise, activities along the route, positive stimuli
for all of the senses, and keep bikeways clean, whole, well-tended.

Safety & Health–Mix bikes with cars when possible and separate them when necessary for low-speed
and volume and provide alternative parallel pathways for high volume.  Consider infrastructure and land use, such as
location of schools.

Comfort–Provide a smooth surface (concrete/asphalt), minimal stops, protection against
the weather, avoid steep slopes, make sure there’s enough space (abreast),
avoid sharp curves and design for a speed of 20 mph.

Other factors include positioning bollards marked with reflective material,
streetlighting, keeping vehicles out of bike paths, and providing enough bike parking


Mobycon is an independent consultancy firm based in the
Netherlands. Its interdisciplinary team includes urban designers, planners, economists
and social scientists who are well-versed in applying Dutch transport expertise
around the
world. Lennart Nout, manager
of international strategy, guided us through his presentation.

Mobycon wants
to make the world less dependent on the car. In the Netherlands, people cycle
not only on short city trips but do some long-distance commuting, too. That
means investing in bicycle highways, not just bike paths along existing roads. Research
has found that providing designated bike lanes helps get more riders to take short
trips. Mobycon is working on a fully segregated bicycle highway in Los Angeles.

Like Hillie, Lennart mentioned three different types of roads,
which he labels flow, distribution and access. Mobycon has found that creating
low-traffic residential neighborhoods unlocks high bike use. Motorists are
willing to drive shorter distances at slower speeds within them, which is safer
for cyclists. You can plan out a neighborhood where you can get where you need
to go in six minutes. Lennart showed an example of how, in Barcelona, they put
the cars on the outside of “superblocks” and the cyclists inside.

Bike Minded

is located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands (NL). Its goal is co-designing
a bicycle friendly world by creating e-bike infrastructure. The company is
concerned with signage and technical elements such as bridges. Company founder Maurits
Lopes Cardozo was our guide.

cycling Hovenring, Eindhoven, NL
Biking above it all

E-bikes are growing steadily in the Netherlands. From two percent
in 2004 to 42 percent of bicycle purchases today. With reduced effort, more
people can use them, and it enables higher travel speeds, which makes longer
trips possible—and has an effect on urban planning. It could have a large
impact in the Bay Area, too.

Pedal assist used to be for seniors and people who had difficulty
riding a bike, but now, they are used by many other people, including for
delivery and even schoolkids.

Maurits described two types of cyclists—practical and recreational—and
says that both types would be willing to switch to e-bikes. Practical cyclists
are everyday cyclists: commuters, people carrying cargo, or students going to
school. Recreational cyclists are of all ages, are often e-bike users, and
enjoy riding for sports and fun.

The two cycling types have different needs, but it all requires good
infrastructure. While the main cycling network in town can be on asphalt
streets, there are some fast-cycling regional routes for longer distance
commutes. Maurits talked about three hierarchies of cycling: basic, main and

  • Basic can share streets at slow speeds
  • Main needs a separated path—red-painted asphalt in the Netherlands
  • Fast-cycling routes do not mix with cars, and are for longer commutes and recreational rides

For those longer trips, there are often barriers, such as
highways, rail and utility corridors, rivers and canals, which divide
neighborhoods. Car-dominant intersections are a problem, too. So, Bike Minded
plans and designs ways to surmount these barriers. For example, the amazing
Hovenring in Eindhoven, NL, is a circular cable-stayed cycling bridge that
floats over the highway. Maurits showed us the Los Angeles River Bike Path and
the City of Davis’ bike infrastructure projects.

The ideal situation is to integrate cycling seamlessly with other
transport networks, and that sometimes is not parallel to the car network. Minimal
contact with other modes is much safer. That’s why Bike Minded likes
roundabouts in place of intersections, such as in Beukelsdijk in Rotterdam. They
are much safer and keep all traffic, cars, and cycles, flowing smoothly.

The Last Word from Chris Bruntlett

Chris Bruntlett, based in Delft, the Netherlands, uses his
knowledge and passion for cycling to share what the Netherlands has to offer with
other locations around the world.

Chris, regular unassisted bikes can be part of the picture, but e-bikes are

Chris Bruntlett
Chris Bruntlett

just a fraction of automobile trips to the electric bicycle could save
societies billions, addressing myriad problems such as obesity, congestion, air
quality, noise pollution and road safety,” he said.

there are three major barriers to realizing these benefits: lack of
infrastructure, lack of storage and the up-front expense. That means e-bikes
won’t be used in large numbers without creating safe places to ride and park them and providing incentives to
make it easier to buy one.  

seemingly limitless potential to transform our cities and towns won’t be fully
realized without additional support from both the public and private sectors,”
Chris said.

the best things you can do now are to join like-minded people and organizations
to push for change, lobby your elected officials, and if all else fails, run
for elected office yourself. And, of course, go get your own e-bike.

Story by
Steve Schaefer. Photos from the Dutch Cycling Embassy.

More of our Biking Coverage

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Ride: VanMoof S3 E-bike

Micromobility: Behold—A
Revolutionary Bike Helmet

Micromobility: An
Electric Mercedes-Benz for One

Riding the Specialized Turbo
Electric-Assist Bicycle

The post Feature: Going Dutch–Cycling Embassy Reaches Out to the San Francisco first appeared on Clean Fleet Report.

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