A few weeks ago, bike enthusiasts and professionals from across the Washington region came together for the ThinkBike Workshops hosted by the Royal Netherlands Embassy, MWCOG and DDOT. Attendees included urban planners, engineers, bicycle and pedestrian coordinators, local and regional business owners as well as WABA and other bike advocates. The two-day workshops brought Dutch bicycle transportation experts to American cities to examine and encourage increased bike-ability in the US. Other ThinkBike workshops have taken place this year in NYC, Chicago and Toronto. Long known for its expertise and development of safe and practical urban bicycling, The Netherlands leads the world in bicycling-as-transportation (over 30% of trips are by bicycle) and has a lot to teach the US about promoting bicycling.
The workshops kicked off with a public session on Monday morning. Dutch Ambassador Mrs. Renee Jones-Bos and DDOT Director Gabe Klein each addressed the audience on the importance of increasing bike-ability in DC for advancing livability, reducing environmental impact, promoting healthy lifestyles and growing economic competitiveness. The three Dutch transportation experts, Coor van der Klaauw (City of Groningen), Willem Bosch (City Zwolle) and Herbert Tiemens (Town of Houten) gave presentations on the general state of bicycling in The Netherlands. A few impressive nuggets from the presentations included that bicyclists in The Netherlands live 3 years longer than non-cyclists, and work absenteeism rates are 10% – 15% less compared to non-bicyclists. In addition, operating an automobile COSTS $.40 per mile whereas operating a bicycle GAINS $.19 per mile when you consider the economic, health and other impacts of each.
Following the opening session, workshop attendees where split into two teams of 12 members and assigned specific focus-areas of DC to study and make recommendations for possible improvements. One team focused on the L St. NW and M St. NW corridors between Georgetown and Union Station. The other team focused on the Southeast and Southwest waterfront areas bounded by the 395 freeway and the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers. Both teams took to their bikes and rode through the focus areas to get an on-street perspective for possible improvements. The first day ended with a short brainstorming session and general recommendations for the focus areas.
The second day, teams spent a majority of their time doing detailed renderings of redesigned intersections, street elevations and lane configurations, and other improvements such as wayfinding and “green wave” traffic light coordination. The Dutch transportation experts held a separate session about accompanying education, enforcement, communication, outreach and encouragement practices, as well as policy recommendations based on Dutch experience. Recommendations included: enforcement effectiveness tools, parking and carpooling policies, required bicycle and pedestrian education in school, and better outreach to underserved communities.
The final closing session, held at the Columbus Club on Tuesday evening, focused on the final recommendations. Congressional Representatives Tom Petry (R-Wisconsin) and Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and DDOT Director Gabe Klein addressed the audience about the need to support bicycling in these difficult times of tight budgets, increasing rates of obesity and auto-dependence.
Overall, it was exciting and encouraging to bring the local bicycling community together with Dutch experts to dream big about increasing bicycling in the Washington region. A huge thank you goes to the Royal Dutch Embassy, MWCOG and DDOT for hosting the event!
Read the Final Presentation (PDF – 10MB).