Thursday 18 November 2010

Integration in Amsterdam

Some point out that even in the Netherlands bikes have to sometimes share the road with motor traffic. This is supposed to be an argument lessening the importance of segregated infrastructure for mass cycling. There are two issues with this statement - first is the problem of scale and then there is the problem of type. I found a good clip illustrating this - integration in Amsterdam. Let me tell you - I wouldn't mind such integration at all.

Compare it to integration in London.


  1. What the clip amply demonstrates is (a)that conflicts between bikes and motor vehicles (or other bikes going the other way) do arise quite frequently, but that they are managed politely and ina civilsed fashion and (b)that traffic violations are quite frequent (surely the camera shouldn't be crossing the solid while line into the cycle contraflow? What are those scooters and mopeds doing on the cycle path?) but because the atmosphere is civilised no-one makes a dig deal of them.

    I feel the same way for example about motorbikes in the ASL - as long as they keep out of my way I can see some sense in them being in front so they can use their superior acceleration to get clear very quickly.

    Presumably this state of live and let live can exist precisely because Dutch infrastructure has brought almost everyone out on their bikes - almost all motorists are also cyclists and so understand the other side's point of view.

    I guess that is what David Love with his new BikeAware campaign ( would like to achieve - what chances of success here?

  2. Thanks for the comment Paul M. I have never been to Amsterdam (yet!) so I can only judge from this video, that the driving culture is very different from the one we observe in London. The speeds involved seemed much lower too.
    I guess the vindictive nature of some cyclists comes from the frustration of sharing the road where the level of traffic and the speeds of the motorised vehicles are much higher. It raises the adrenaline and results in knee-jerk reactions to any abnormal situation, as if everyone was out there to kill them.
    As for the training - I have very mixed feelings about it. Understanding other modes of transport comes from using it on a freequent basis. I can relate to people walking as I walk myself. If I spent all my day in a car I would be able to. Plus people tend to drive according to their training only during the test - later they forget most of what they've learned and simply follow the herd. But hey - every little helps.

  3. Let me tell you - I wouldn't mind such integration at all.

    I haven't cycling in the Netherlands either, but putting almost all for/against arguments aside, the big problem over here as you have both touched upon is the general 'atmosphere' out there.

    As a motorist, as well as a cyclist & pedestrian, it pains me to suggest that the main cause of this 'atmosphere' is the seriously bad attitude of the majority of motorists. Rush rush rush & sheer selfishness abounds and things as they are would improve tenfold (more so along with some Dutch road planning) if people would retain some common sense & relax their nerves a little when climbing behind a steering wheel.

    As for training & tests - how many times have you heard a driver say, "I'd never pass my driving test if I had to take it again!"? Plus people tend to drive according to their training only during the test - later they forget most of what they've learned and simply follow the herd. In other words, I couldn't agree more!


  4. ian - thanks for your comment. People seem to be addicted to speed today (and I am not talking about the drug). Every hindrance makes them furious and they direct their agression at the obstacle - a cyclist, a slower walker,a slow computer. In reality they are loosing a minute, but in some peoples perception it's hours. Taking it easy really makes a difference. Oh - it could be all the pot they smoke. (Sorry, couldn't help it - I know how the Dutch hate it when people mention pot and their country in one sentence).

  5. in Amsterdam we quite often share the road with cars, mainly in the historic center. Here cars are slowed down, access is limited (inconvenient) and on most of those streets people on bikes have right of way and passage, aka through 'bicycle streets', where cars can not and may not overtake.

    The main thing about bike infra in Amsterdam (and other cities) is that bike paths' level of protection (segregation) increases with the allowed speed of motorized traffic.

    Regarding the different attitude of car drivers: there will always be assholes :), but yeah, it's better than elsewhere. It's where 'safety in numbers' kicks in. Bikes are nr 1, are protected by law (strict liability) and catered for the best. It also helps that most people cycle, it's not 'car drivers vs people on bikes'. You could call it the added effect of making cycling accessible for all, provided by infrastructure & across the board provisions/facilities.

    Hope that helps.

    Yes, we don't like the never ending pot reference, as facts will tell you that we have some of the lowest usage % in the western world. It's so normal, we couldn't be bothered by it. Figure that, huh? :)

  6. thanks for your comment Amsterdamize. You mentioned all the things that London is lacking. Care to elaborate more about the strict liability? This is one of the hot topics in UK cycling world right now. Can you tell us about what strict liability implies in the Netherlands? Does it only affect the insurance (civil liability) or does it also affect criminal liability?

  7. So yes, it's about making cycling (subjectively) safe (Amsterdam spends 39 euro per capita per year on bike infra), providing facilities that complement that (parking), and actively curtail the use of cars (carrots & sticks).

    With that, you'll end up with a whole lot of happy, smiling people :).

    PS: so funny to see that old video pop up and watch it again. I think it was the second video ever that I posted on Amsterdamize. So much has changed since...just not the cycling :).


  8. I don't have the time now to really explain it all, but it boils down to both civil & criminal liability, of which the civil liability is dominant in the courts (as % of criminal cases re: bikes are relatively low). The burden of proof is solely put on drivers (cars/motorbikes). 100% with regards to children on bikes and 'on paper' 50% for adults.

    This has proved to be working. I have to say this law works because bikes form an established part of daily traffic, with well-defined rules & regulations. In a more 'wild west' situation, like UK currently, this would be much harder and I don't think it should be seen as one of the main drivers for getting more people on bikes.

  9. The first thing I think of when hearing the word 'pot', is 'school' LOL