ThinkBike - The Opening Ceremony

18/10/2010 21:23 by Steven Vance

Steve Vance attended the ThinkBike Workshop in Chicago and offered to do a guest post on Amsterdamize to tell us about it. Me: of course! --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The Netherlands seems to have it all when it comes to people riding bikes: safety, facilities, normality, sensibility. But I've already written about that (and here, too), and since you're reading this on Amsterdamize, you would have seen that in the 1,000+ photos Marc has published on Amsterdamize. The Netherlands hasn't always had expertise about making it safe and easy for people of all ages to ride bikes. There was a period of time when bike use declined dramatically as the popularity of driving rose. In the three decades since the central and civic governments started acting to change this scenario, the country has learned a lot about what works. Top photo: Hans Voerknecht's presentation shows bicycle use dropping (red line) from 1960-1975 and rising from 1975 to now. The City of Chicago's Bike 2015 Plan promotes two goals that echo the sentiments of almost all North American cities and the Netherlands:
  1. Increase the number of people riding bikes
  2. Decrease the number of injuries and fatalities.
Milwaukee bike lane People riding home from work on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, Illinois. Before stopping in Chicago, ThinkBike paid a visit to Toronto, Canada. Regardless of what the press release claims as the role of the ThinkBike workshop, it seems to me an opportunity for the Netherlands government to share its expertise on achieving these goals (and possibly drum up some business or economic partnerships for the country). For more on bicycling conditions in the Netherlands, I urge you to read John Pucher's excellent paper, "Making Cycling Irresistible" (.pdf). The country's four representatives (think tank, private consultancy, and municipal planning) also want to promote imaginative and innovative solutions for Chicago bicycling. This post is about the "opening ceremony" on Thursday morning, which was open to the public. I took great notes during this part!

Previous write ups on ThinkBike from friends: Before the four representatives got up to speak, there were introductions: Now it's time for the Dutch experts to tell us about the good stuff.

Arjen Jaarsma, Balancia

Arjen talked little about bicycling. Instead he talked about eco-cities and sustainability. Because of this, I've moved my summary of his presentation to a different post.

Hans Voerknecht

Two parts of the Dutch bicycling philosophy are joy and safety. Hans wants us to think bigger than 1-2% ridership (expressed in portion of workers commuting by bike). The Bike 2015 Plan has a goal of 5%. Currently, Chicago has a 1.15% rate (workers 16 and older riding their bikes to work) according to the 2009 American Community Survey - slightly above the nation's rate of 1%. In the whole of the Netherlands, the bike rate is 27%, young and old, to work, school, to shops, etc. We should aim for 10%. Joy How does joy fit in? "I've been driving. I don't feel free siting in a cage in a traffic jam." People of all ages bike in the Netherlands. Girls aged 12-16 cycle 7 kilometers daily! (The United States only tracks cycling rates to work for people 16 and older.) "My father is 83 years old; he's not allowed to drive but he rides his bike." [Read more about 8-80 criteria] Safety Perceived safety is secondary to joy in the Netherlands. (I would say if not already first priority in America, it should be. We can work on joy simultaneously.) How does one make a situation where riding a bike is perceived as a safe thing to do? (Please comment if you don't understand these - as a transportation planner, this is firsthand knowledge for me.) Right-of-way intersection with bike path in Lelystad The bike lane continues through the intersection (denoted by white squares) while intersecting drivers must yield (denoted by shark teeth - the triangles). Photo by Daniel Sparing. Hans explained the three road types in the country and how bicycle riders are accommodated. Mirrored Oma Fiets Bike lane adjacent to, but separated from, a distributor road. shared space A woonerf, or shared space. Many "traffic calming" devices prioritize people on foot and on the bicycle. Photo by Joel Mann. Hans also talked about transit, but I've moved that to the end of this article because the final speaker, Ruud, also talked about transit.

Martijn te Lintelo

Martijn is the Senior Advisor of Mobility Policy, Department of Public Space, for the City of Nijmegen. Nijmegen is the country's oldest city, celebrating "its 2000th year of existence in 2005", with 160,000 residents. Its view on bicycling is entirely modern. He talked about a special piece of infrastructure in his town and how to design a bikeway network. Martijn was quite obviously excited the bicycle bridge, called the Snelbinder (info in Dutch, some in English). He said it means "fast connection" but it also seems to mean a bungee cord that goes on a bike's rear rack. The bridge span is only 270m long, but the connection is over 2km. There are multiple access points, including an escalator for bikes and their owners. Just pull your bike right on to the escalator up to the Snelbinder to get across the  River Waal. Photo by Marko van Houdt Martijn gave us some neat ideas about "bending the street" to improve connectivity and speed. It's part of how to build a network "top layer." The following is paraphrased from his presentation: "Where do cyclists want to go? [Are they the same places that drivers go? I doubt it; schools are a more prominent destination for people riding bikes.] Find and determine the hotspots. Then add some regional connections. Just draw a straight line between them - 'wish lines.' Then build a route on these wish lines using existing infrastructure/network segments/connections." Toplayer bikeway design Showing how wish lines work. I just started drawing on a satellite map of Chicago. This is an activity you would commonly find at a charrette, where you give attendees the opportunity to show what they want. The person in charge of planning the bikeways would essentially try to make this happen. I circled schools, sports arenas, shopping, work and entertainment areas, and some residential areas. This is not how it happens in Chicago - but I think we should try it out! Bend the street I hope I'm interpreting his idea correctly. Bending the street is one way to use existing connections to create better bicycle connections. Here're two real-world examples in Portland: 33rd/Going, Williams/Killingsworth. After bending the street, we can use more existing connections for bikes by removing on-street car parking. This would optimize street space for movement instead of storage.


Ruud Ditewig works for the City of Utrecht. He talked mostly about bikes and transit - "a very important relationship." He showed on the big screen many photos of train stations around Utrecht, including the Centraal Station. Here people arriving by bike will find 9 guarded bike stations (u-stal) with 10,000 bike parking spaces. You might see a banner announcing "gratis stallen" (free parking). The national train operator, Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS), operates its own bike sharing system called OV Fiets. Train passengers can borrow a bike using their OV-chipkaart, the contactless payment card they use to pay for train fares. During non-rush hours, passengers must buy a ticket for their bike for €6. Folding bikes are allowed at all times. Ruud showed a photo where you could count at least 4 passengers carrying folding bikes after deboarding. Arrival Customer with folding bike at Amsterdam Centraal Station. Hans V. told us that 40% of NS customers arrive by bike - "it's their biggest customer group." Crispy Morning Ride A Nederlandse Spoorwegen train passes by a group of people riding bikes. Bike parking is the Netherlands' number one bike challenge. But at least when available at train stations, it's often convenient by being sheltered and near the platform. Ruud also showed a photo showing a bicycle bypass on a narrow street with a bus route where bus stops would block the main cycling way. Clever bus bypass Ruud shows a bicycle-only bypass at the bus stop.

The end

The opening ceremony closed with a presentation from Adolfo Hernandez of the Active Transportation Alliance (ATA), giving a speech verbatim that Randy Neufeld (formerly of ATA) had given at the David Byrne and the Future of Cities Forum earlier in the summer (you can read and watch that presentation). Afterwards, many invited planners, engineers, consultants, and advocates met to form the Blue Team and Orange Team. Stay tuned for "ThinkBike - The closing ceremony" where we learn of their results! *I used to work for CDOT, from 2007-2010, as a bicycle parking planner. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Thanks for this great review, Steve, looking forward to the closing!

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