Going Dutch and Danish

Imagine a major city where 35 percent of all traffic is people on bikes. Or think even bigger--an entire nation where 27 percent of all trips are pedal-powered.

This is not some Utopian vision of the commons dreamed up by a 24-year-old after too many handcrafted beers. These are real places located in modern societies with high levels of car ownership. Places not so different from the US named Copenhagen and the Netherlands.

Don’t believe it? Go there, and you can see for yourself. You’ll be surprised to find these are great places for everyone, no matter how they get around, because cities that work for bicyclists are more vital, prosperous, convenient and attractive places to live and work.

In fact, it’s never been easier for local leaders across the US to experience life in these world-class communities. Next summer PeopleForBikes, a Colorado-based non-profit, is organizing tours of Denmark and the Netherlands to offer public officials, planners, civic activists and business leaders practical lessons about how to help their own cities thrive. (Minimum of four participants from each community.)

“These tours are 20 percent about bikes and 80 percent about how to make great places full of economic, social and cultural wealth,” said PeopleForBikes’ Zach Vanderkooy in a phone conversation from Amsterdam, where he was leading a group of officials from Atlanta, Seattle and Boston.

“Nothing is better than getting on a bike to see how it feels,” said Rick Dimino, CEO of the Boston business coalition A Better City, who was part of the recent Netherlands tour.  “We saw some very creative and robust ways that a strong bicycling system can improve mobility, quality of life and our economy in the US.”

“I took hundreds of pictures on those trips and I gave many slideshows for our planners and transportation people to show what could be done,” remembers Gabe Klein, former Director of the Chicago Department of Transportation, who visited Danish and Dutch cities on PeopleForBikes study tours.

Chicago, never noted previously as a great place to bicycle, is now ranked as America’s #2 Bike City byBicycling magazine. That’s because the city is now second only to New York (Bicycling’s #1 city) in the number of protected bike lanes--bike routes on busy streets that are physically separated from fast-moving vehicles. According to Vanderkooy, “protected lanes together with slow-speed local streets and off-street paths create a seamless transportation system that strengthens public transit and helps keep all  traffic well-organized and free-flowing.”   

Read more: http://www.onthecommons.org/magazine/going-dutch-and-danish