MADISON, WI (BRAIN)—Saris Cycling Group president Chris Fortune departs tomorrow on a one-week trip to Europe to tour urban bicycle centers and bring best practices back to his hometown of Madison.
Fortune is leading Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Dane County executive Kathleen Falk and 19 other civic and business leaders on a groundbreaking trip to three European cities where 25 to 35 percent of all daily trips are made by bicycle. In contrast, less than 4 percent of daily trips are currently made by bicycle in Madison. The delegation will meet with bicycle planning, engineering and design experts in Muenster, Germany, as well as cities in the Netherlands, including Amsterdam, Nijmegen and Utrecht.
“We are going to study, learn and experience firsthand how these cities have woven bicycling into daily life,” said Fortune, who will travel with the group solely by foot, bike and mass transit during the seven-day trip. “Our goal is to apply what we learn to transform Madison into a world-class city for bicycling.”
Madison earned Gold-level Bicycle-Friendly Community status from the League of American Bicyclists and was recently named No. 7 on Bicycling Magazine’s list of America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities. Fortune said the transportation study trip will provide successful European models to help the city reach its goal of 20 percent alternative mode share by 2020.
“Madison by U.S. standards is gold. But when you look at where great cycling infrastructure is, it isn’t here; it’s in Europe,” said Fortune.
Approximately 27 percent of daily trips are made by bike in the Netherlands; 22 percent in Denmark; and 12 percent in Germany. Muenster, one of the cities the delegation will visit, has achieved an enviable bicycle mode share of 35 percent by investing significantly in infrastructure improvements, education efforts and promotion over the past three decades. Fortune said Muenster provides a good comparison because, like Madison, it is a university town with 50,000 students and a total population of around 200,000.
“Madison is a very bikable and walkable city with a strong bus system,” said Mayor Cieslewicz. “But at a time when high-speed rail and a new regional transit authority will open new transit opportunities, I hope to return with fresh ideas on how to make our transportation systems easily accessible to everyone, whether traveling by bike, on foot or in a car. This is an opportunity to learn from the most transit-friendly cities in the world.”
Joining the delegation of Madison civic, business and advocacy leaders are Krista Rettig, director of advocacy for Trek Bicycles Corporation, and Susie Weaver, corporate affairs director for Wilderness Trail Bikes, who has led similar trips for WTB. Also accompanying trip leaders are Zach Vanderkooy, project coordinator for Bikes Belong, and Gary Sjoquist, advocacy director for Bikes Belong.
Fortune said Bikes Belong hopes to create a blueprint for European transportation studies that can be replicated by officials in other U.S. cities.
Saris provided funding for the trip along with Bikes Belong and the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin.