Readers know I am not a fan of all things Dutch. I don’t care for segregation-by-vehicle-type. However, there are other aspects of Dutch road design — and more-importantly, Dutch public policy — which I applaud and would like to see reproduced here.
What can we Learn about Road Safety from the Dutch? offers a look at those items.
The U.S. focus was on making cars and roads “safer,” in order to protect us from ourselves. This marks the biggest difference between the American and the Dutch approach to transportation planning.
While the U.S. focused on making cars and roads “safer” for car drivers, the Dutch focused on making transportation infrastructure and social structure safer for everyone. In both cases, the infrastructure very much informs and reinforces the social structure. For the Dutch, this creates a spiral of positive consequences which produce an increasingly sustainable transportation system. For us, a spiral of negative consequences which produce an increasingly unsustainable transportation system.
The U.S. engineering approach to “safety” has been to create a forgiving environment for the Culture of Speed — aimed at keeping inattentive and incompetent drivers from running off the road at high speed. Non-motorized users have become anathema in this environment. Even though we can learn to operate safely, it is seldom a pleasant place for us and we face the wrath of the entitled for violating a taboo reinforced by the road design. As a result, gentle users have been chased from much of our roadway system, making it increasingly brutish.
Our current attempts to bring gentle users back to the roadway (by jamming them into the gutter alongside speeding traffic) have been worse than lame. If we want to reclaim this public utility, we need to attack the Culture of Speed, and the entitlement mentality of motorized users, head on. IMO, that means avoiding infrastructure that reinforces it by visibly shoving non-motorized users out of the way at their expense.