I'm fascinated by the bike culture of Amsterdam. It's part of an larger transportation city network that puts a priority on bicycle riders, pedestrians and public transit riders over car owners. The streets are narrow and dominated by food and pedal traffic. I visited Amsterdam for the first time last year and was struck by the flow of people throughout the city. Unlike in the United States, cars do not dominate the streets of Amsterdam -- they give way to the more numerous bicycle riders and walkers more often than not. Speed limits are kept low, one-way streets make driving more of an effort (which decreases how much people drive), and raised walkways and protected bike lanes carve off large portions of the overall transportation footprint. Toss in the country's excellent tram system and you get a place where most people are perfectly happy to go without owning a car.
It's a model that needs to be adopted anywhere large numbers of people live together. If we are serious about transitioning to a truly sustainable world, a place where we can all live comfortably without destroying our ability to do so in the future, we're going to need to shift our transportation network away from the current car-centric model to one that puts walking, bike riding, bus and train riding, and innovative car-share systems like Car2Go which allow you to pick up and drop off a car anywhere within a city, eliminating the last remaining need for many people to own their own car.
It's a good idea to look at how Amsterdam, and the Netherlands as a whole, adapted such progressive, forwarding-thinking transportation policies. How did the Dutch get their bike paths?
This short video does a great job of explaining the roots of the network. Take six and a half minutes and give it a watch.
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