Leave it to the Dutch to engineer the psychology of the regional bike commute.

Imagine a world where a safe, usable bike route between neighboring towns isn’t good enough because there are stoplights interrupting it. That world is the Netherlands, where such “inadequacies” are recognized and responded to with full-throated government support. That’s how they build projects like the RijnWaalpad, an 11-mile cycling highway that sails between the southeastern cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen without a single stop.

One of several such paths in the region, RijnWaalpad is also dubbed the “fast cycle route,” as compared to the “slower,” roadside bike route it supplements. But as one Dutch cycling enthusiast explains in the latest STREETFILMS video dispatch, it’s the psychology of the commute that’s truly reengineered. “The main thing with these routes is not the speed, but the directness and convenience of being on your own route and being at ease,” says Sjors Van Duren, the program director of Velo-City 2017, a bike planning summit that took place in Arnhem and Nijmegen last week. “When people are at ease, time goes faster.”

The highway mostly scrolls above the bucolic Dutch countryside, parallel to but (nearly always) separate from roads and train tracks. Other times it slips through tunnels lit with smart LEDs that respond to passing cyclists’ phones; more frequent riders unlock a greater number of pastel lighting choices. The highway is tree-lined, flower-studded, and well-marked—and it’s luring commuters into the saddle. “Slowly, but steadily, we see people reconsidering their transportation options and shifting, even on regional trips, from car to bike,” says Van Duren.

North American cities used to have such impressively separated cycling infrastructure. But on this continent, and in this century, it’s hard to imagine the disruptive nature of stoplights ever factoring into the conversation—even the best cycling towns are still stuck arguing about parking.  

For more transit fantasy porn, Eckerson has assembled a few additional shorts from the trip, including one dedicated to trams that run on grass, delightfully presented without comment.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: San Diego's Trolley
    Transportation

    Out of Darkness, Light Rail!

    In an era of austere federal funding for urban public transportation, light rail seemed to make sense. Did the little trains of the 1980s pull their own weight?

  2. Design

    Why Amsterdam’s Canal Houses Have Endured for 300 Years

    A different kind of wealth distribution in 17th-century Amsterdam paved the way for its quintessential home design.

  3. Equity

    What ‘Livability’ Looks Like for Black Women

    Livability indexes can obscure the experiences of non-white people. CityLab analyzed the outcomes just for black women, for a different kind of ranking.

  4. photo: Bernie Sanders
    Life

    Bernie Sanders Wins Endorsement From the Internet’s Premier Urbanist Meme-Makers

    In backing the Vermont senator, the popular Facebook group “New Urbanist Memes for Transit-Oriented Teens” is leveraging some offline political clout.

  5. photo: Developer James Rouse visiting Harborplace in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.
    Life

    What Happened to Baltimore’s Harborplace?

    The pioneering festival marketplace was among the most trendsetting urban attractions of the last 40 years. Now it’s looking for a new place in a changed city.

×