The Consulate General of the Netherlands actively supports bicycling in South Florida and we are grateful to them for bringing three experts on traffic engineering and planning (which in their country includes bicycles) to meet with their counterparts here in the States. I had the privilege to ride around the City of Miami with them today, pointing out difficult intersections, corridors and related challenges to bicycling here. The idea is to bring them back in the Spring and host a symposium and workshop with our local Department of Transportation, municipal planning and capital improvements offices and advocates to get everyone to ThinkBike.
Above, left to right: David Henderson (MPO Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator), Eric Tullberg (ViceChair of BPAC and Board Member of Green Mobility Network), Cor van der Klaauw (Dutch Center of Expertise on Bicycle Policy), Jamie Caulkins (BikeSafe, UMiami), Jeff Cohen (Miami-Dade Public Works Bicycle & Pedestrian Coordinator), James Mark Palacios (FDOT, District 4), Willem Bosch (Zwolle) and Peter Schuetz (local advocate).
It was a great ride and Herbert Tiemens of Houten took many more photos and geotagged them. Here’s the fun one:
We got a friendly welcome from a concerned City of Miami Police Officer. The exchange went something like this.
What are you doing?
We’re leading a bike tour.
uh… [pause, confused look] Well, you need to be careful. You’re riding in the street.
Yes, Officer. Where should we be riding?
Well, okay. Okay. Just be careful. There are cars behind you and they have to slow down.
Yes, Officer. Thank you.
The Dutch loved this. It seemed obvious to us that it was a slow day for this beat officer and I did not get worked up. After all, he didn’t give all the guys in business casual attire a hard time. I wonder how he would have treated me if I were alone or with a group of less formally dressed friends. I ride through Wynwood / Overtown / Park West with some frequency and I have been stopped about five times by police ‘concerned’ for my safety. Those are other stories. But today’s experience made clear to other organizers why I am so adamant that law enforcement be strongly urged to attend the ThinkBike Workshop next year.
Learning From the Dutch
In the Netherlands, traffic engineers don’t hire consultants to work bicyclists into plans – they themselves plan for bicycles. Every street, every development is planned with people in mind and pedestrians and bicyclists receive equal respect, if not priority. People bicycle all the time because it’s fun and healthy and green, of course, but also because it’s so easy. In Houten, a city built up about 50 years ago (like so many of the developments in Florida), planners and engineers made sure that it was easy to get anywhere by bike. This is where Herbert is from and he has documented this bicycle city’s infrastructure and use here:
Our friendly experts listed some ‘Dutch Solutions’ for improving streets for bicycling. They include
- Mixing traffic everywhere but highways and reducing speeds to reduce the speed differential.
- Remembering bicyclists move like water – we wish to take the fastest, most direct route to where we are going and should be accommodated accordingly.
- Two lane one-way streets can easily become: One Lane One Way for cars plus a contraflow lane (two lanes, both directions) for bicycles.
The Dutch support bicycling because it make economic sense. Government statistics in the country cite that following statistic:
- Every mile by car costs $0.40
- Every mile by bike gains $0.19
People who commute to work by bike tend to take 10-15% less sick days, they have reduced healthcare costs and have an increased life expectancy of 3 years. They experience less disease and as young people, significantly greater levels of confidence, independence and healthy weight.
For more obvious but positive information (in english), backed up with studies and statistics, visit the Dutch Center of Expertise on Bicycle Policy online.
We hope that by bringing our new Dutch friends back in the Spring or Fall of 2011, we will be able to attract high-level transportation officials from across South Florida who might be inspired to ‘think bike’. Right now we are looking for a good location for a 2-day workshop somewhere in the Downtown Miami/Wynwood/Park West area. The first day’s morning meeting and the second/last day’s evening program will be open to the public so we need space to accommodate approximately 60-75 people. The small budget we have will go first to covering the expenses of our guests so if anyone has a suggestion for an affordable or donated space, please let us know.
If you would be interested in sponsoring the ThinkBike Workshop – or any other of the South Florida Bike Coalition’s campaigns and programs – please call us at 305.982.7343. Thank you.
And thanks to YouthBike for providing free loaner bicycles to our Dutch visitors for the duration of their stay.