At this intersection, drivers have to ask the bikes to stop

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At an intersection in the Dutch metropolis of Delft, the mild is nearly all the time inexperienced for cyclists and pedestrians. If a automobile pulls up, it has to wait as the intersection robotically triggers a crimson mild for the bike path—however the mild solely lasts for seconds, after which the stream of bikes and other people can transfer once more.

i 1 90650405 at this intersection drivers have to ask the bikes to stop
[Image: courtesy Dutch Cycling Embassy]

“This utterly flips on its head the paradigm that we could also be used to elsewhere in the world, particularly in U.S. cities, which prioritize the stream of motor autos and put the pedestrians and cyclists as sort of an afterthought,” says Chris Bruntlett, coauthor of Curbing Traffic: The Human Case for Fewer Cars in Our Lives, a e-book that examines the advantages of “low-car” cities in the Netherlands. The intersection, certainly one of quite a few examples in the e-book, is the reverse of a typical city American avenue, the place pedestrians push a stroll button after which wait to cross, typically for minutes.

Whereas just a few different intersections in Delft have comparable indicators, it’s much more frequent for streets to have no visitors sign in any respect. “They principally take away any kind of signalization or precedence, and simply depend on belief and hand indicators and social cues and cooperation to get folks by means of the intersections,” Bruntlett says. Partly, this is feasible as a result of so many individuals journey on bikes or by foot—roughly half of Delft residents get round by bike, versus solely 20% by automobile. When individuals are inside the bubble of a automobile, he says, they have a tendency to transfer on autopilot, much less conscious of their environment; when individuals are on bikes, they’re naturally extra conscious of the others round them, making it simpler to make eye contact and navigate crowded areas with out visitors lights. Eradicating visitors indicators utterly signifies that drivers are pressured to transfer extra rigorously. The bodily design of the avenue additionally helps. Many roads are slender, making them simpler for cyclists and pedestrians to cross. Curb extensions bulge into the avenue at intersections, so drivers have to decelerate to flip and might clearly see anybody of their path.

At each the intersections that prioritize cyclists and people with out lights, it’s simpler for cyclists to hold transferring to their locations. The design favors bikes as a result of they’re the dominant mode of journey, and Bruntlett acknowledges that it may very well be tough to make the identical adjustments straight away in cities that have fewer bikes on the highway. The Netherlands has a half-century head begin on making streets extra bike-friendly. (In the Nineteen Seventies, many Dutch streets appeared much more like American streets, crammed with automobiles; it was a acutely aware alternative to create a extra bike-oriented society.) Bike-friendly Copenhagen also has traffic lights that prioritize cyclists, and in London, the metropolis is testing visitors lights that automatically turn green for cyclists.

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Every enchancment helps make it much more possible that individuals will select to experience a motorcycle slightly than driving. That shift isn’t simply higher for a metropolis’s carbon footprint and for lowering air air pollution that leads to bronchial asthma and different well being circumstances. The e-book makes the case that bike-friendly cities are additionally rather more livable: When anybody, together with kids and the aged, can stroll or bike round a metropolis with little stress, high quality of life measurably improves. “Site visitors and livability are sort of mutually unique qualities,” Bruntlett says. “The extra you are able to do to take away or cut back the quantity of house for automobiles in your metropolis, the higher metropolis you’re going to have for your whole residents.”