New project seeks to bring global best practices to U.S. bicycling
August 24, 2009
Boulder, CO—Bikes Belong is launching an ambitious Bicycling Design Best Practices Project. The goal is to improve U.S. bicycling infrastructure by encouraging the implementation of innovative, successful models of bike facility design, engineering and promotion—many of them developed in northern Europe.
To kick off the project, Bikes Belong is hosting a five-day transportation research trip that will visit the Netherlands and Germany, August 30-September 3. Elected officials and transportation planners and engineers from Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, and Taiwan will participate. Bike facility professionals from the Netherlands, Germany, and the U.S. will guide the 16-person group.
Bikes Belong recently selected Zach Vanderkooy, a graduate of the master’s program in Urban Planning at Harvard University, to coordinate the project. Vanderkooy, who studied under noted transportation expert Anne Lusk, will lead European research trips and work to publicize global best practices in bike facility and bike program development.
In many Dutch cities, more than 30 percent of all trips are made by bicycle. In the German city of Muenster, the percentage of bike trips is even higher. Meanwhile, in the U.S., only about one percent of all trips are pedal powered.
Many European nations have steadily increased bicycle use for short trips by making bicycling safer, more convenient, and more appealing for adults and children. These countries have developed innovative facilities such as separate cycle tracks, bicycle-specific signal lights and cost-effective traffic-calming devices. These nations are now realizing important, direct benefits from increased cycling, such as reductions in air pollution, road congestion, urban parking infrastructure costs, and perhaps most important, better health and lower rates of obesity.
One of the primary challenges facing current U.S. bicycling infrastructure is the lack of tools for quickly evaluating and adapting state-of-the-art international practices in roadway design. Official engineering manuals that guide the design of U.S. bicycle facilities don’t reflect the latest innovations in this rapidly evolving field.
“This project’s primary goal is to encourage the U.S. development of innovative, cost-effective bike facilities that will get more people riding bikes more often,” said Bikes Belong executive director Tim Blumenthal. “Speaking specifically about our research trips, we know that city, state and federal officials and transportation engineers will be inspired by seeing the best that Europe has to offer. They’ll return home with new enthusiasm, new ideas and strong commitments to act.”
Bikes Belong plans to continue these European transportation research trips in 2010, and will invite elected officials, planners, engineers and journalists to participate. Bikes Belong will also work to promote other bicycling design best practices developed in Asia, Oceania, and throughout the world.