Rage-Free Rush Hour in Utrecht

From Infrastructurist by way of Buzzfeed comes this video of bike commuters in Utrecht. With a population of around 300,000, Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Netherlands, and has a 33 percent bike mode share. According to the write-up accompanying the YouTube post, this intersection handles "no less than" 18,000 bicycles and 2,500 buses per day.

Entrancing as it is, we did manage to wonder what this scene would look like if all these people were driving. Probably something like this:

Atlantic and Flatbush time lapse from tracy collins on Vimeo.

  • Can anyone explain why the corner has a both a traffic light and a Yield sign? Does this combination have a special meaning in the Netherlands?

  • da

    Amazing time-lapse of Flatbush & Atlantic from Tracy Collins.

    On every light cycle, northbound Flatbush traffic blocks the pedestrian crosswalk as a few more drivers try to “make the light”. Absolutely every light cycle.

  • Zmapper

    Mitch: The yield sign is there in the event that the signals go down. The Busway should have a yellow diamond. This configuration helps traffic more instead of going to a 4-way stop when power goes out. If only the USA had this configuration!

  • To add to Zmappers explanation: presumably this configuration is not only for the case of power outages but also for times when the lights are deliberately switched off, e.g. during the night. So if the lights are working, you have to obey those, if they’re off, you follow the sign.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Both these videos are mad dope. I can’t wait until I am in Copenhagen next month and start shooting video of bicycles the minute I land. I am afraid i may explode from happiness.

  • Mark

    That looks kind of fun. Where are all of the hipsters?

  • I quite enjoyed my visit to Utrecht a couple years back. It’s amazing how you can cram a whole center city into quite a small area if you don’t have to provide giant lanes for driving and parking motor vehicles.

  • Emily Litella

    Completely different species of urbanite over there. Homogenous ethnically, respectful to each other, respected by an accountable government, interested in accomplishing rather than acquiring. I want it to work here but I fear it may not until we have exhausted our resources on dead-end strategies (like imported rare earth metals packed ELECTRIC SUVs) and are forced to do human powered vehicles right.

  • David

    @Emily: The Netherlands is far from ethnically homogeneous; in fact upwards of 20% of the populace has an ethnicity other than Dutch and there’s been enough talk about the worsening state of the Dutch ‘samenleving’ (society).

    The difference here simply is that biking is part of the culture and has been for decades, to the point now that it competes with public transit over short distances. In order for this to work in the US, one will need the infrastructure (of which the Netherlands has in abundance) but also the cultural drive to make it work (which might be just as hard as the paving the paths and installing the lights).

  • wagstaff

    David you may be right about the 20%, but none of them appear to be biking.

  • Kevin Love

    There is a significant Friesian ethnic minority in The Netherlands. They speak their own language. Like French Canadians, there has been a recent push for Friesian language rights.

  • Albert

    So much for the supposed importance of helmets, a least when there are no cars around. Not a single helmet in this video of everyday bicyclists.

  • Albert

    “*at least* when there are no cars around…”

  • David

    Sure if you crash a helmet is an important element to prevent scrambled brains, but how often do you crash out of no one’s fault but your own? If car drivers (virtually) never have the right of way exiting a side street crossing a bike path along a major road and know that all accidents are automatically the drivers’ fault, I wonder how many helmets would be needed then.

    @wagstaff: True, (non-Western) foreigners may tend to bike less (and transit advocacy groups are aware of this), but they are by no means excluded from the Dutch fietsencultuur.

  • CityHallMaven

    They also don’t run the red light, they orderly wait for it to change and they stay off the sidewalk.

  • David

    @CityHallMaven: That’s completely untrue. In my own experience I’d say that about 75% of cyclists run through at least one stop-light on a semi-regular basis. If they don’t see traffic coming, plenty of cyclists will blast through an intersection (including many moped-users) instead of waiting a few extra seconds. This of course is technically illegal, but often isn’t written-up by the police.

  • CityHallMaven

    I was referring to the Dutch riders, who obey the law, not the NYC riders, most of whom, as you state, are rogue cyclists.

  • David

    @CityHallMaven: I too was refering to Sutch cyclists. It may seem like paradise here inthe Netherlands (where I live) but don’t forget that cyclists here are people too who want to get from A to B as fast as possible. If a red light is inconvenient or the proper bike path is across the road, they won’t hesitate a bit to bend and break the rules to shave a few seconds off their journey.

  • CityHallMaven

    With all respect, have you ever been to NY? Dutch cyclists are much more orderly and respectful. I’ve been to your wonderful country and have observed the stark contrast

    I was basing my comments on the video here. To a person, every cyclists stopped at the red light. No one was on the sidewalk.

    I go for a 5-minute walk in Manhattan, and see at least 1-2 on the sidewalk.

    I could count on two hands the number of people I have ever seen stop and wait for a red light. And one was a group of European speakers.

    Here it is anarchy with most cyclists. That is why they get so little respect from most of the general populace.


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