Some cities are more bicycle-friendly than others. Los Angeles has a long way to go before city leaders can truly call it reasonably safe for riders. One place they might look for inspiration is another coastal city more than 5,500 miles away.
Amsterdam, the largest city in The Netherlands, is one of the most bike-conscious cities in the world. Over the past 40-plus years, Amsterdam has made a tremendous effort to prioritize cycling over cars and trucks for commuting. Nearly everyone takes advantage of this, and because auto traffic is relatively light, bicycle accidents are rare. Here is how they did it.
Separated bike paths
In Los Angeles and most American cities, bike lanes are designated by painted lines near the side of the road. In Amsterdam, most bike lanes are separated from motorized traffic by curbs, grass, trees, or at least vertical posts.
Amsterdam’s bike paths are interconnected as part of an overall plan. In Los Angeles, you might be able to start your ride on a bike path, but the paths are laid out somewhat randomly and end abruptly. You likely will have to risk riding on a pathless street to get to your destination.
One of Amsterdam’s most unique innovations is the “fietsstraat,” or cycling street. Unlike other roads, bike traffic gets first priorities on fietsstraats. While cars can go on them, they cannot pass bicyclists, and the speed limit for motor vehicles is 30 kph (about 18 mph). Just knowing you are on a road where the bikes’ right of way takes priority can give riders the confidence that a crash is very unlikely.
Barriers at intersections
Intersections can be the most dangerous places for riders if motorists do not respect their right of way. Amsterdam combats this problem by using barriers, such as planters, to separate bikes and cars at intersections. The law states that drivers must yield to bicycles at intersections, making things even safer.
Cars might always come first in the L.A. area, but changes like these could greatly reduce bike accidents for those who ride. Until the city makes bike safety a priority, there will be hundreds of serious bike wrecks every year. Victims should contact a personal injury lawyer who focuses on bicycle accidents to learn their legal options.