Can We make American Cities Work As Well As Amsterdam?

Amsterdam wasn’t always this way.  We have plenty of work to do- with the prevailing love affair with cars in the US.

“Making a city where most trips are done on bikes requires utterly discarding conventional car-centric ways of thinking about transportation. Over the last 60 years, Amsterdam’s leaders, planners and designers have by trial and error created a template for a city where bikes are the dominant force in transportation planning and design. That template has five essential characteristics; skip or short-change any one of them and your city of bikes won’t work as well.”

5 Reasons Why Amsterdam Works So Well for Bikes

In most cities, the network of bicycle tracks and lanes is far sparser than the overall street network for vehicular traffic. In Amsterdam, the street network map is the bike network map. Almost all streets in the city have excellent bike facilities of one type or another. What is extraordinary is that in Amsterdam you are more likely to need a specialized car map than a bike map, since many streets have limited or no car access.”


People unfamiliar with the idea of the bicycle as real transportation sometimes see Amsterdam—the famously bike-friendly Dutch capital—as a fantasyland that has very little to do with the grown-up transportation world of cars and trucks. In reality, a readjustment of perspective is needed, since Amsterdam has succeeded in creating a transportation system that is one of the most successful in the world. Transportation in Amsterdam is the epitome of sustainability. It is convenient, cheap, clean, quiet, efficient, and safe.

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On crosswalks, research and safety campaigns conflict

A crosswalk does not necessarily make it safe to cross a street.  This is not news or new science.   But that hasn’t stopped developers and city councils to continue to target pedestrians with stricter enforcement, and to blame them in crashes.

“The MUTCD bases this provision on studies of crash data.  Pedestrians crossing big highways, these studies report, have a greater chance of being hit by drivers at marked crosswalks than at similar unmarked ones.

There are several possible reasons for this.

  • Traffic engineers often locate marked crosswalks at the places where they interfere least with vehicle movement. Pedestrians may put a higher priority on safety when choosing where to cross.
  • Politicians may demand crosswalk markings at the intersections with repeated crashes, meaning the crashes are not a consequence of the marked crosswalk but the cause.
  • Researchers have other suggestions, too, as Tom Vanderbilt discusses on page 198 of his book Traffic.”

“Most of the general public believes that marking those crosswalks makes them safer to use.  But the Federal Highway Administration disagrees.  Sometimes, at least.”

“The MUTCD bases this provision on studies of crash data.  Pedestrians crossing big highways, these studies report, have a greater chance of being hit by drivers at marked crosswalks than at similar unmarked ones.”

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Giving Pedestrians a Head Start Crossing Streets

“The National Association of City Transportation Officials has highlighted the measure — called a “leading pedestrian interval” by traffic engineers and urban planners — as a best practice in its urban street design guide, saying that it is one of the ways that “effectively decrease crashes and save lives on our cities’ streets.”

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Fining distracted pedestrians is a step backward

Enforcement is not the answer, which amounts to blaming the (potential) victim.  The solution is with reduced motor vehicle speed, better infrastructure for bicycling and walking, and thereby reduced volume of automobiles and traffic.

“So, I’ve checked the statistics and, as far as I can discern, none of those pedestrians was killed because they were bumped into by another pedestrian checking their Twitter feed. No, instead, they were all killed because cars struck them. It’s as if the No. 1 cause of deaths on Ontario roadways are automobiles, especially those driven by distracted drivers.”

Janette Sadik-Kahn :

Girl killed while crossing street Facetiming–WHILE WITHIN THE CROSSWALK.  “Now we all tell our kids to look both ways when crossing the street, and not to look at phones. But everyone here is just so convinced that the kid is so totally at fault. Had she been daydreaming, had she been blind, had she been old with bad hearing and eyesight, it might not have even made the evening news. Instead, it just becomes part of the continuing campaign to shift the burden of responsibility from drivers to pedestrians.”

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People are screaming for more parking in charming business districts like this one in Pocatello, Idaho. When exceptions are made to infill or rebuild a beautiful movie theater like the one in the article, without parking minimums there would have to be viable alternative transportation options. Onward Asbury Park!


This Friday is our annual #BlackFridayParking event — a nationwide action drawing attention to the harmful nature of minimum parking requirements.  Each year on Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year, people across North America are invited to snap photos of the (hardly full) parking lots in their communities to demonstrate how unnecessary these massive lots are. Participants then upload those photos to social media with the hashtag #blackfridayparking.  Get more info about how to participate here. 

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Safety Solution From The Onion: Buy a Car Like A Normal Person

“…90 percent of bike accidents could be prevented by buying a car like a normal person,” writes the lede of a totally fake news story by the satirical and totally not real news website The Onion.”

Most bicyclists are never going to look like this!  But a lot of drivers would like all bike riders to just get off the roads.

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America Is Now an Outlier on Driving Deaths

Evidence and data show that speed is the biggest cause of car-related injuries and deaths- and speed is our focus here, particularly on the local level.  Americans love their freedom, and nowhere is that more evident than in our car-centric culture.   Whatever the reason, the highway is not where where most crashes occur:

“The overwhelming factor is speed,” says Leonard Evans, an automotive researcher. Small differences in speed cause large differences in harm. Other countries tend to have lower speed limits (despite the famous German autobahn) and more speed cameras. Install enough cameras, and speeding really will decline.

But it’s not just speed. Seatbelt use is also more common elsewhere: One in seven American drivers still don’t use one, according to the researchers Juha Luoma and Michael Sivak. In other countries, 16-year-olds often aren’t allowed to drive. And “buzzed driving” tends to be considered drunken driving. Here, only heavily Mormon Utah has moved toward a sensible threshold, and the liquor and restaurant lobbies are trying to stop it.

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URGENT Message from NJBWC re. Bill S2894

Cyndi Steiner
Executive Director
New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition


URGENT message:
S2894- the bill NJBWC has been working on for a year now- is NOT on the schedule for Monday’s (Nov., 20, 2017) Senate Budget Committee vote.
This bill will require the MVC to include bike & pedestrian safety in the driver’s education curriculum, in the driver’s ed manual and on the exam. We need this bill posted for a vote on Monday in order to get it passed this session, otherwise, we must start all over.
Please share this post on the NJBWC facebook page to your networks. We need to flood these legislators with our requests!
Please contact:
Senator Paul Sarlo – (201) 804-8118 (Committee Chair)Senator Nia Gill – (973) 509-0388 (co-sponsor)
Senator Steven Oroho – (973) 300-0200 (co-sponsor)

Or contact them through this site:

Here is language to send to them:

Dear Senator, 
Please post bill S2894- the bill requiring the MVC to include bike and pedestrian safety in the driver’s ed manual, in the curriculum and on the exam- for a vote at the November Senate Budget Committee meeting. Drivers need to be educated on bike riders’ and pedestrians’ right to the road, so that we can start to eliminate the senseless deaths and injuries to these road users on New Jersey roads.
Thank you,

Your name.



STRAVA Helps Planners Understand Pedestrians and Cyclists

Long neglected in transportation planning, popular jogging and biking routes are getting more attention thanks to new data collected by Strava.

Pedestrians and cyclists are notoriously difficult for transportation planners to count and map. This is beginning to change, though—not because of some quantum leap in surveys or sensors, but because of fitness-themed social media.

Last week, Strava, a social network for athletes, re-released its Global Heatmap with more data and better graphics. The interactive map depicts more than 1 billion journeys undertaken by Strava’s millions of members, 80 percent of whom are from outside of the United States. All of that data makes for a detailed global map of trips made on foot, by bike, and by other alternative modes of transportation. And all that info is starting to be put to work by transportation planners.

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OpEd: The Unintended Consequences Of Bicycle Helmets

We should encourage people to cycle, not scare them away

It’s obviously important to have concern for bicyclists’ safety. There’s a gigantic industry for it. Flourescent paint (, bells (…/), lights (…/cycling-lights-buyers…), and of course head armor (…/). The elephant in the room (or “bull in the china shop” as one commenter says) is cars.


“From personal experience I can attest that it is almost impossible, in the US at least, to have an intelligent conversation about bicycle helmets. The universal view is that you have to be crazy not to wear a helmet. Since I almost never wear a helmet this is not a good way to begin a productive conversation.

I think the issue is far more complex than most people believe. It’s a great example of unintended consequences, and that what seems obvious may not always be so.”

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