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. A map of apartment searches in the U.S.
    Maps

    Where America’s Renters Want to Move Next

    A new report that tracks apartment searches between U.S. cities reveals the moving aspirations of a certain set of renters.

  2. Equity

    Why Housing Policy Feels Like Generational Warfare

    To Millennials, at least.

  3. a screenshot of a video about Baltimore's Metro
    Transportation

    It’s Time to Celebrate Baltimore’s Much-Maligned Metro

    In 1987, the Maryland Transit Administration busted out a brass band to open a subway that never had a chance.

  4. A rendering of a co-living building in San Jose.
    Life

    The Largest Co-Living Building in the World Is Coming to San Jose

    The startup Starcity plans to build an 800-unit, 18-story “dorm for adults” to help affordably house Silicon Valley’s booming workforce.

  5. A cat lays flat on a bench at a park on the outskirts of Tokyo.
    Life

    Why Don't Americans Use Their Parks At Night?

    Most cities aren’t fond of letting people use parks after dark. But there are good lifestyle, environmental, and safety reasons to reconsider.

×