Amsterdam is having major traffic jams, but they aren’t cars. It’s because of bicycles. To Americans, this sounds crazy. Especially if you’re from LA. But there are now more bikes than people in Amsterdam, and four times as many bikes as cars. And this has led to parking shortages–again, for bikes–that have clogged the city’s streets and kept people from getting places in a timely manner. City officials recognize the true enormity of the problem, and will combat it with a whopping $135 million over the next twenty years. Again, this may sound looney to Americans. But being “the mecca” for biking, Amsterdam recognizes just how beneficial biking can be to the health of the city, and is willing to support the cause.
And it looks like other major cities around Europe are on their way. In London, now one in four rush hour vehicles is a bicycle. Given the dramatic increase over recent years and the frequency with which bikers now use previous “danger zones,” that number looks like it will keep climbing. It’s no surprise then that these European countries are now becoming the leaders in the fight against climate change, with the US, once the leader, now dragging behind. It is not as much that more bikes means less cars and less pollution, although that’s true, but that the culture surrounding bicycles is one much more committed to making a tangible difference. US cities are trying to implement this culture through bike sharing programs and more bike paths, but there is still a strong resistance to the idea that biking is better than driving. In order to make a difference, this attitude needs to be overcome, and looking at the success and functionality of biking in big cities such as London should help do so.