An Enviable Problem: Dutch Bike Lanes Are Overcrowded @momentummag

Photo by FietsBeraard
A typical Dutch commute. Photo by FietsBeraard.

When many people think of urban cycling, they think of the Netherlands. Bikes are so popular in the European country that “bike culture” has almost become synonymous with Amsterdam. But according to a report by the Dutch SWOV Institute for Road Safety, everyday cycling has amassed such a crowd of regular participants that the bike lanes are getting, well, crowded.
While the sprawling, connected networks of bike lanes in the Netherlands are the envy of urban cyclists from other parts of the globe, they remain insufficient to accommodate the growing numbers of people using them every day. At rush hour, the lanes are overcrowded and crashes are becoming more frequent.
According to the report, some of these collisions are the result of poor decision-making and riding habits among riders. The SWOV set up cameras at four major bike lane intersections in the Hague, and the footage revealed a variety of unsafe behaviors. Around 20% of riders were observed using their phones while riding, 80% pulled out of a lane to overtake without shoulder checking, and a full 5% were observed cycling in the wrong direction the lane. It is this behaviour mixed with swelling crowds, the report notes, that lands around 1,000 riders in the hospital each year because of collisions with other people on bikes. When you take into consideration that over 700,000 trips are made by bike per day in the Netherlands, that number is a little less alarming. However, 1,000 crashes is still 1,000 too many.