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Aura Abroad #1: A Taste of Bike Culture

Today not only starts the beginning of Ethan and my school year at TU/e but also the kickoff of the first entry in the Aura Abroad series. Look forward to our (hopefully) weekly observations and progress as we continue our studies here in Eindhoven.

The first thing immediately evident in the Netherlands are the sheer volume of bicycles. The above photo is of all the bicycles outside of the train station - rows and rows of them. This cycling culture is deeply embedded in the Dutch way of life something that we from the States are not nearly used to. I’m more familiar with defensive riding, weaving in and out of traffic while dodging Pittsburgh pot holes.

This mentality has no doubt helped lead to the creation of a fantastic infrastructure designed for the biking commuter: dedicated bike lanes as well as designated signals just for cyclists. This system wide adoption of cycling as a serious form of transportation has no doubt led this kind of widespread proliferance! It’s really remarkable, truly.

Yet another aspect to biking in Holland, our friend Sebastiaan was recounting to us, is the rarity of bicycle related accidents. Sure there are isolated accidents (like just falling over on your bike), but Sebastiaan mentioned that he has yet to see anyone injured by a collision with a car or a pedestrian or a fellow cyclists. Personally I was skeptical. Plus I was alarmed by how many, if not all, commuters did not wear helmets. The math didn’t add up. Nevertheless, so far in my two week stay here I have not seen a single accident. So after bringing this question to our go-to Dutch man, Sebastiaan told us that from an early age children are taught the do’s and don’ts of biking on the road and drivers have to complete a lengthy exam to obtain their license.

Simply put, biking has become part of the culture here and people just know, and as such drivers, pedestrians, and bikers are constantly aware of each other. It’s a beautiful system of infrastructure and ubiquitous awareness that just works, proven by the zero accidents that I have witnessed. Overall, it’s been great. We are definitely learning a lot just by being here, immersed in this very different culture, which makes me also wonder how we as industrial designers can help create a similar system of safety in the United States. The first step is awareness of bikers, and Aura we hope, will help light the way.