Today, I walked through some streets of Amsterdam on my way to the American Consulate. Having lived in the United States for more than a year now, I saw the capital of my home country with different eyes.
I saw the dedicated bike lanes in every street—most of them buffered with curbs, trees and other street furniture. I suddenly noticed the sheer number of bikes parked in the omnipresent bike racks!
I realized how I never thought it was remarkable to have all that, in every city, in every town and even separated bike lanes as part of rural infrastructure. I remember biking to get to my high school, on separated bike lanes between grazing cows and country roads.
I realized the infrastructure in Amsterdam is evenly divided to accommodate all mode shares. I walked on the Van Baerlestraat, a 100-foot-wide artery next to the Rijksmuseum with only one through lane each way for motorized vehicles, and took a closer look at the people biking on that street. I spotted a Dutch businessman in his Italian suit on a casual run-down city bike; I saw a parent biking with his baby boy, his young daughter riding next to him on her own; I saw children biking home from school, a delivery boy on a scooter, people with shopping bags, someone cycling with a dog on a leash.
No one was dressed athletically. They were all wearing their regular or business clothes.
I saw that all other traffic seemed to easily flow around all these cyclists. No one looked concerned for their safety, or worried their route would be obstructed or their bike lane suddenly stop. They were just in between their destinations and activities for that day, getting there by bicycle.
Growing up, I took this wealth of active mobility for granted. Here I am today, an urban planner, now knowing that I’m looking at decades of hard work and continuous, careful planning by many people.
It was there all along, and now I see it. And I want it for other young people growing up too.
Today, I am thankful for being able to appreciate all of this. I am thankful for being a planner in transportation, a field where we really can make a difference in people’s lives. Mostly, I am thankful for the opportunity to work at Kittelson and help to make active mobility a commodity for young Americans. I hope that when they grow up, they won’t think twice about hopping on their bicycles to go someplace.
I would be honored to be one of the many people who worked for that—to make active transportation an everyday activity that’s safe and accessible for everyone.
Banner image: Van Baerlestraat in the direction of Willemsparkweg, June 2018 by Alf van Beem.
Tess Stribos is a transportation planner who has worked in the Netherlands, Singapore and Southeast Asia on the planning and design of multimodal facilities and urban design projects.