Photo Essay: Bicycling Infrastructure in the Netherlands

This summer, James Farrell and Alyson West, UNC City and Regional Planning master’s students, traveled to the Netherlands for a two-week study abroad program. Over these two weeks, they saw some of the world’s best bicycle infrastructure, some of which has been captured in the following photos from their trip.

“The Green Heart” of the Netherlands. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

Most major cities in the Netherlands are part of the Randstad, a ring including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht. Within this ring, the Dutch are dedicated to maintaining “The Green Heart” – a large region of rural and mostly undeveloped land.

Separated bike highways between Delft and Rotterdam. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

In between cities, there is still extensive bicycle infrastructure. Between Delft and Rotterdam, there is a dedicated separated bike highway running alongside the road, allowing safe and efficient travel along the entire route.

Bikes throughout Holland. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

It would be an understatement to say there are bikes everywhere in Holland. On the left, a rental Batavus; pink flower added by the author so that she could distinguish this bike from the many, many others.

Underground bike parking at the Utrecht City Hall and train station. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

There is also bike parking everywhere. This is Utrecht City Hall, which is adjacent to the main train station. Underneath, there are currently 4,000 bike parking spots, but that is nowhere near enough; they are expanding and will soon be able to accommodate 12,500 bikes.

Historic downtown Utrecht. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

By focusing on bicycling and walking as the main modes of transportation, cities like Utrecht have been able to maintain the natural and built beauty of their historic communities.

Examples of Dutch road design. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

Dutch road design is central to keeping communities livable by slowing motor vehicle speeds. No enforcement needed on these two roads — the infrastructure works to maintain slow traffic speeds.

Examples of Dutch roundabouts. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

In addition to good road design, the Dutch also build safe and efficient roundabouts. On the left, a two-level version in which bicycle traffic is separated from automobile traffic. They make it look easy.

Bicycle infrastructure in Houten. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

The suburban town of Houten is very dedicated to building community which prioritizes the people walking and cycling. Pictured here is a bridge across a major highway as well as a double-decker car and bicycle roundabout.

Wayfinding systems in the Netherlands. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

There are many different wayfinding systems to direct pedestrians and bicyclists throughout the country. Here are three different examples, plus a bonus roundabout for bikes in the middle of nowhere.

Roads with shared space for bicycle and car traffic. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

Rural roads in Holland are very narrow, and many have ‘advisory’ bike lanes on them, which means they are essentially shared space. But, there is so little auto traffic in general, speed limits on such roads are low, and drivers understand that people on bikes belong on the roads just as much as people in cars, so “sharing the road” works.

Bridges over train tracks in the “Green Heart” of Holland. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

There are also a lot of train tracks in the Netherlands, with frequent, fast-moving trains traveling on them. Consequently, there are many bridges over train tracks, including this one, miles from any town, out in the rural “Green Heart” of Holland.

Pedestrian and bicycle bridge over a canal. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

A common theme we noticed in the Netherlands is a focus on thinking at an integrated systems level. Here is a pedestrian and bicycle bridge over a canal. When boats need to pass, the bridge rotates horizontally to allow boats to pass

Alyson and James with other students on the study abroad trip. Photo Credit: James Farrell and Alyson West.

In addition to seeing the wonderful countryside, cities, and infrastructure of the Netherlands, we were also able to share the experience with some amazing students from all across the country.

About the Authors: James Farrell is a second-year master’s student at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of City and Regional Planning. He works as a research assistant at the Environmental Finance Center housed in UNC’s School of Government researching water and utility management. His interests in transportation are broad, but he is particularly passionate about data analysis, connected and automated vehicles, and bicycle and pedestrian planning. James’ hobbies include singing karaoke, making ice cream, and of course – cycling

After a twenty year career in the music industry, including ten years spent in Germany and Australia, Alyson West is now working on turning her passion for active transportation into a second career in bicycle and pedestrian planning. A second year master’s student in City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina, Alyson enjoys spending time with her second grader, pursuing all manner of curiosities and riding all of the bikes. Alyson is employed as a part time research assistant at the Highway Safety Research Center in Chapel Hill, NC.