Home > Dutch cycling, Infrastructure, John Forester > Amsterdam cyclists ride fastest

Amsterdam cyclists ride fastest

Does cycling-specific infrastructure slow you down? Can you ride faster on streets than on bicycle paths?

Some cyclists, many of whom seem to be of the vehicular persuasion, argue this point vociferously. John Forester may have been the first, with this pip from 2001 (among others):

The bikeway advocates are so imbued with the imagined virtues of the Dutch bikeway system, that it makes cycling safe for the incompetent and creates many cyclists where there were few before, that they have transformed, in their own minds, the defects of the Dutch system, its slow speed and long delays, into virtues.

The argument has stuck around even into this, the year of our lord 2015, the supposed year of hoverboards and powered shoelaces. That such myths and inanities persist probably has much to do with lack of experience; apparently, most cyclists in the U.S., for instance, have never ridden in a place with real bicycle infrastructure. Even John Forester, critic-in-chief of Amsterdam-style bicycle lanes, never visited the country.

Enter Strava data:

Strava bests

Riders in Amsterdam, that city criss-crossed by bicycle lanes and infrastructure, enjoy the fastest average speed (15.9 mph) of any major city that Strava tracks. For quick comparison, here are a few other cities:

  • Los Angeles: 13.1 mph
  • San Francisco: 12.9 mph
  • New York City: 13.5 mph

To be sure, Strava results are easy to criticize for their reliance on data-hungry, athletic riders, those who belong to a demographic that can afford and use the devices Strava requires. (I find the service helpful for tracking times and distances of my daily commute and weekend rides.) However, comparing Strava riders city-to-city has a big advantage: Strava users look similar to each other worldwide, making comparisons easy. The point? Athletic Strava users — that category of fast, competent riders that Forester liked to describe — ride faster on Amsterdam cycling infrastructure than on any type of other (mostly non-cycling) infrastructure in major cities around the world. It’s time to retire the myth that cycling infrastructure slows you down.

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  1. Wes Oishi
    August 9, 2016 at 7:51 AM

    I “take the lane” ONLY when necessary. We never did this (or even had to) in the 70’s.

    • August 9, 2016 at 8:57 AM

      I was a child cyclist in the 1970s and remember riding around our small town without problems. Now, in the 2010s, like you I take the lane when I must.

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