Photo 'Braids and Bridges' By Xander of TorontoBikeChic.com
Amsterdamize contains pretty pictures of people on bikes, many people on bikes. It's a given here. More bikes than people, more bike than car trips (Amsterdam, Groningen) and still rising. Cycling is such an integrated part of life that nobody thinks twice about it, everybody takes it for granted. Yeah, I'm the odd ball :).
What I've been trying to do since I erected this little blog is to show what's really here, to just show as best as I can how it works and it relates to cycling cultures elsewhere, showing that things can be different and that it's perfectly normal to demand nothing less. Inspire others, connecting the dots, exchanging ideas, connecting with people on so many different levels. It's been a fun ride so far, to say the least.
As you also know by now, is that this didn't 'just happen' or 'has always been the case'. It's man made, purposefully. Just like anywhere else in the world we experienced a post-war car boom, a tidal wave that quickly pushed people on bikes to the side, taking cycling rates way down. In the early 70's a few visionary people stood up and said 'no more'. This group successfully advocated for safe infrastructure, policies & legislation, they are now known as de Fietsersbond, aka the Cyclists Union.
What basically happened is that it found common ground with local, regional and national policy makers, and paved the way for institutionalized bicycle policies, integral to urban planning, education and legislation.
Decades of trial-and-error, turning best practices into national templates and sufficient funding resulted in an unprecedented cycling experience (just ask someone you know who's ever visited). Anyone in the Netherlands can cycle, wherever, whenever, anywhere. The integral approach paid dividends, as all the facts will tell you, benefiting the whole of society. Highest number of trips per capita, most cycled kilometers, highest cycle & lowest casualty rates...in the world.
Achieved by putting the burden of safety NOT on people on bikes, but 'identifying the 'bull in society's China shop': the automobile. Cycling in itself is not a dangerous activity, mixing people on bikes in high volume & high speed traffic is. Segregation of these slower & faster modes of traffic has been essential, all the while reigning in the bull and redesigning our cities.
Now, all this accumulated know-how is of course priceless. The Dutch bicycle organizations, policy makers, planners and other experts have always been open to sharing this wealth, available to anyone who's interested, meticulously documented and free of charge, so to speak. Even more so with the arrival of the internets.
Over the last 10 years more and more city officials, urban planners, other representatives and media outlets have visited the Netherlands to see for themselves and learn. Working relationships get established and projects initiated. However much the cycling levels here seem unattainable/from another planet, visitors look for similarities, measures and policies that can get public support and survive the legislative process.
Makes total sense. No place is the same, you gotta taste, see, hear and learn, adapt, adopt, test, promote, sell, implement. It can be a culture shock at first, but in essence (proven) cycling provisions work the same all over.
With this backdrop in place, I'm following up on a request by the Dutch Consulate in Washington D.C. to help them spread the word about their bicycle events. So, I'm happy to announce that, after the (ongoing) 'Go Green, Go Dutch, Go Bike' initiative, the Netherlands is taking the promotion of cycling to the next level with a new project: ThinkBike workshops, starting in Toronto:
The City of Toronto and the Consulate General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands are hosting Dutch bicycle planners on September 20th and 21st for the ThinkBike Workshops.
Toronto and Dutch bicycle professionals will form two teams for this event. The teams will consider new elements to improve Toronto's cycling strategy. Each team will be given a Toronto cycling infrastructure problem to solve. Team Orange will work on designs to convert existing Toronto bikeways into physically separated bikeways. Team Blue will work on designs to connect gaps between existing downtown bikeways. The exercise will including drafting recommendations for marketing and communications.
The results will be unveiled at a free public event Tuesday September 21st, 6-8 pm. The two teams will be competing to develop the most exciting proposal! Come watch the presentations!
Velomondial calls the ThinkBike workshops 'mini Amsterdam Bike Slams', and they're right. Why change a winning concept?
If that isn't exciting enough for #BikeTO, ThinkBike will also take place in Chicago on Sept 23-24, for "a Dutch Boost to Chicagoâ€™s bike-ability":
Two teams, consisting of Chicago and Dutch specialists, will survey Chicago by bike and discuss how streets, intersections and whole neighborhoods can be improved for optimal bike use. Other topics of discussion at the workshops will include bike safety, commuting by bike, biking to school, bike parking, bikes and public transport, law enforcement, etc.
Bicycle advocates, and other interested Chicagoans are invited to attend the opening session of these workshops, that will take place on Thursday, September 23 from 8:30 AM till 10:00 AM in the James R. Thompson Center auditorium, 100 W. Randolph Street. The session will be emceed by Geoffrey Baer, WTTW Channel 11â€™s famous local travel documentary host, who will debut a new bicycling-focused show, â€œBiking the Boulevards,â€ later this fall. The session will also feature a keynote speech from Eric Gilliland, executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials, who will address the state of bicycling in Chicago and where it can grow. The event is free and open to the public. Registration, at no charge, will be available at www.activetrans.org.
Photo by Steven Vance
So, dear Torontonians & Chicagoans, whatever your cycling background, I have a feeling you don't want to miss this battle. It's more than just a bicycle infrastructure workshop. It could be the first of many bigger steps forward, to a more livable city.
Yes, you remember correctly: "Everybody benefits."
Chicago is the first U.S. city to host such an event; visits to other American cities are planned for this fall as well as 2011.
PS: if you plan to go, I'm eager to hear your feedback!
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