People jam! What congestion looks like without cars (pics)

Traffic congestion isn't much fun, but when it's in cities designed for people, it's immeasurably better. These pics above and below of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and Groningen give a sense of that.

The picture of Amsterdam above apparently comes from Schlijper.nl, but TreeHugger managing editor Lloyd Alter found it via a tweet from Brent Toderian. In the tweet, he wrote, " 'Traffic congestion' in a city for people. #Amsterdam, via @schlijper." hence my title.

This next photo was actually taken by Lloyd in Copenhagen. Granted, Lloyd aptly noted that it was "bad design having the buses stop next to the bike lane with the waiting area on the other side." (A transportation planning mistake that is fairly common.) Nonetheless, how much nicer is that compared to sitting in an automobile traffic jam that is several times longer and full of pollution?

© Lloyd Alter

Lastly, here are two I took in Groningen, a Dutch city with a 50-60% bicycle commute rate:

Zachary Shahan/CC BY-SA 3.0

Zachary Shahan/CC BY-SA 3.0

These photos give a snapshot sense for how much better quality of life is in cities designed for people (rather than automobiles). Truthfully, though, it's practically impossible to capture how much better traffic congestion from densely packed bicyclists and pedestrians is compared to traffic congestion from cars and trucks. As I wrote in my article on 5 things I loved about living in Groningen, it took me months before I realized how busy that street above was. It was almost always quiet, but it hit me at one point that if the city had a normal US commute rate, it would be a horrible street to live next to and my quality of life living on that street would have been greatly diminished.

We can quantify the costs of bike infrastructure versus the costs of automobile infrastructure. We can quantify the costs of pollution to an extent. But how do you quantify how much better life is in a city designed for people?

Also recommended: 20 more things I loved about Groningen (+ TONS of bike photos)

Tags: Bike-Friendly World | Biking | Public Transportation | Urban Planning | Walking