Amsterdam: A Refreshing Look at Transportation

Having grown up watching the Portland area adapt to its rapidly growing population through road and freeway expansions, numerous MAX lines, a Streetcar, an aerial tram, and commuter rail, all in combination with lots of new construction, I’ve always been interested how cities are designed in advance to support their future inhabitants.

Dutch transportation infrastructure is designed in a unique way which supports access to members of every strata of society. In the city, streets are flanked by well-marked bike lanes and sidewalks, complete with three sets of traffic lights – one for cars, one for pedestrians, and one for bikes. While this is a logical extension of American infrastructure, there’s a paradigm shift akin to that in India: the largest vehicle rules the road in any case of confusion. Bikes rarely slow down or stop for pedestrians. In many areas, trams join the party, and their tracks are not remotely grade separated. Within 48 hours, I saw bikers cut across tracks and cars make U-turns in front of moving trams with mere meters to spare. Even so, the equal access system seems to be successful with few problems while granting people many transportation choices to suit their individual needs.