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U.S. Leaders Study Bike Solutions

Published September 17, 2010

BOULDER, CO (BRAIN)—Eleven civic leaders from the San Francisco Bay Area visited four Dutch cities August 30-September 3, to study advanced transportation practices and focus on bicycling solutions.

U.S.-based Bikes Belong Foundation led the trip. The group met with Dutch city planners, policy experts, traffic engineers and politicians to capture ideas for making everyday cycling safer, more comfortable and more convenient in northern California.

The delegation visited the four largest cities in the Netherlands—Utrecht, The Hague, Rotterdam and Amsterdam—emphasizing best practices for short trips in urban settings. Forty percent of all trips Americans make are shorter than two miles, yet only a small fraction of these journeys are pedal-powered. In Dutch cities, as many as 50 percent of urban trips are made by bike.

In Utrecht, the delegation studied policies and educational programs that enable kids to travel safely and comfortably on two wheels. They visited one elementary school where 95 percent of the students arrive by bike.

In The Hague, the group experienced innovative design solutions such as colorized pavement, physically protected cycle tracks and bicycle-specific traffic signals that make cycling safer and more comfortable. The Hague is building 30,000 new housing units in the already dense central city and is relying heavily on the bicycle to transport new residents, setting a goal of 50 percent of all trips to be made by bike by 2020.

The California delegation—representing San Francisco, San Jose and Marin County—was struck by the similarities to home during a visit to Rotterdam. This modern, industrial port closely resembles a big American city with its glass skyscrapers, wide streets and heavy car traffic. While Rotterdam’s road grid and congestion are a challenge to bike use, one of five trips in central Rotterdam is made by bike and the city has been aggressively expanding its bike network by adding more than 20 miles of cycling facilities per year. The delegates toured Rotterdam with Dutch officials on electric pedal-assist bikes, which made the longer travel distances easier to cover in the spread-out city.

In Amsterdam, the Dutch cultural and financial capital and largest city in the Netherlands, the delegation met with city councilors and discussed effective policies for growing bicycle use, including the necessity of providing high-quality bicycle parking. More than 350,000 bike trips are made in Amsterdam every day, and the city counts 230,000 bicycle parking spaces, with ambitious plans to add more secure, underground garages near major destinations.

“This group—like all the U.S. delegations we’ve supported—was inspired by seeing the best bicycling facilities that Europe has to offer,” said Bikes Belong president Tim Blumenthal. “They returned home with new enthusiasm and new ideas to get more people riding bikes more often. Best practices study tours are a great way to help U.S. cities provide safe, convenient and cost-effective bike facilities.”

This is a period of unprecedented momentum for urban bicycling in the U.S. Cycling is on the rise in nearly every American big city, including San Francisco, where bicycle trips increased 53 percent between 2006 and 2009. The benefits of widespread bicycle use include greater safety, reduced traffic congestion and CO2 emissions, lower levels of obesity, thriving neighborhoods and economically healthy downtowns.

This was the third European study tour conducted by the Bicycling Design Best Practices Project, which is supported by the Bikes Belong Foundation. Additional support comes from SRAM and the Taiwan Bicycle Exporters Association.

For a detailed day-by-day account of the Netherlands study trip, visit www.bikesbelong.org/news (click on above link).

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