Several European countries, such as Denmark, the Netherlands and Spain, are internationally renowned for safe and integrated multi-modal transportation and elegant urban design. Steady investments in bicycling and transit have enabled cities to realize multiple benefits beyond just personal mobility, such as strengthening local economies and supporting vibrant public spaces, preserving roadway capacity and reducing maintenance costs, and improving public health. In both Denmark and the Netherlands, close to one out of three everyday trips are made by bike, and in central urban areas, more than half of all trips are made on two wheels. And it's not just the young, fit and bold who use bikes — for men and women of all ages and economic backgrounds, the bike is an ordinary, practical way of getting around. America's leading cities, practitioners and policymakers are currently “translating” and adapting best practices inspired by the European cities for use on unique American streets.
Visiting these cities offers American city leaders a chance to experience a fully realized, mature urban mobility system in action. It's not just about bikes. These parts of Europe offer a vision for people-focused places and neighborhoods, economic vitality and high-perfoming cities that attract talented residents and employers. Professionally guided hands-on site visits, exchanges with European transportation and city life experts and comparing notes with fellow U.S. leaders offer participants an insider’s perspective on the rapidly evolving fields of urban design, economic development and transportation. Delegates return home inspired to lead with fresh ideas for improving the safety, convenience and comfort of bicycling — and overall quality of living — in their cities.
The prolific use of bicycles wasn't always a fact of life in the Netherlands or Denmark. Both European nations have overcome challenges similar to contemporary U.S. cities in transforming their streets. And Spain is still developing its own bicycling culture and identity. European cities struggle with competing funding and design priorities, building public support and balancing interests for limited public space just as U.S. cities do. Extracting practical, relevant lessons for American cities is the core mission of the study tour.
Who should attend?
The ideal delegation mix will vary from city to city. There is no single formula, but all delegations are typically anchored by a mix of city leaders, including elected officials/policymakers, executive transportation/public works leadership and technically-minded planning or engineering staff with deep knowledge of current local projects and opportunities. Many effective delegations also include representatives from the business community or political staff with influence in the nexus of economic development and the built environment. Past delegations have included professionals whose day-to-day emphasis is not on bicycling, but who instead focus on neighborhood or community development, capital project delivery, planning, policy or broader city management. State or regional officials, project engineers, designers, community leaders or other local thought leaders could also be valuable additions to the delegation.
We value leadership wherever it comes from, and delegations are intended to be multi-sector and multi-disciplinary by design. Delegates do not need to be regular bike riders or outspoken advocates for cycling, but should be open to new ideas, engaged in transportation and/or urban quality issues and have a strong desire to be proactive about making their city a better place. Delegates should also be likely to occupy long-term leadership roles.
The CityBuilders Symposium is specifically designed for teams of multidisciplinary, cross-sector innovators, change agents, and visionaries including elected officials, agency staff, or leaders from other private, academic, institutional, non-profit and philanthropic organizations. One of the best aspects of PeopleForBikes study tours is the peer-to-peer strategizing that happens between members of the delegation, and formulating a shared vision with a team is a key outcome.
A minimum of three people from a single community, organization, or sector are required to form a delegation. Up to 20 from a single location may form a delegation.
The Tape Measure Tour is designed for transportation engineers, urban planners and others interested in in-depth engineering and planning examples of bikeway design and innovation. This study tour will cover the fundamentals of bikeway design and planning through an extensive week of interactive classroom, field tours and design exercises.
This course is being offered in partnership with Portland State University's Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation. There is no minimum number of participants needed to form a delegation for this study tour. Participants may register as individuals or as a delegation. This 5-day workshop is typically eligible for approximately 30 hours of training which equals to 30 CMs or 30 PDHs. IBPI Applies to the AICP for Certification Maintenance credit for each course. We will provide an attendance certificate to those who document their professional development hours.
What will a typical day be like?
Busy! Each day will include visits to European cities that are at the forefront of bicycle planning, policy and facility design. Agenda topics include planning and engineering, urban design, placemaking, economic development, policy, cultural anthropology, social equity and innovation diffusion theory to frame a robust conversation about how bicycling can better serve the American city. Typically, meetings and presentations with local elected officials, city staff and transportation professionals will precede a hands-on bicycle tour of the host city. There will be time for discussion with locals. The trip will function as a rolling meeting; regular debrief sessions will help the group capture good ideas and strategize about adapting lessons learned back home. There will be a lot of emphasis on local projects and how lessons from the trip can be employed to help them succeed. Delegates should expect to be fully committed during the study tour, active from 7 AM to 10 PM daily.
To get a sense of what the trip will be like, see:
– From the Netherlands to America: Translating the World's Best Bikeway Designs from Streetfilms.
What does it cost?
$5,500 per participant, exluding airfare. In the past, the price has been around $4,000 per person, not including airfare to either Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Registration includes all expenses from airplane to airplane, including five nights single occupancy hotel room, all meals, all ground transportation, course materials and professional guide services. What’s not included are transportation to and from your home airport, hotel incidentals (phone, mini-bar, laundry), any food outside of group meals, personal transportation outside of group activities, and personal spending.
City delegations are typically funded through a variety of local sources, including agency budgets, business groups, local foundations and philanthropic organizations.
What places will the trips visit?
Both Netherlands trips will spend time in Utrecht and some combination of Rotterdam, 's-Hertogenbosch, Tilburg, Delft, Nijmegen, Zwolle, Groningen or other small to mid-size Dutch cities. The Spain trip will be based in the cities of Barcelona and Sevilla. Both itineraries are customized to match the demographics and interests of the participating U.S. cities and will allow exploration of a range of urban scales in cities with a variety of urban and suburban conditions. The common characteristics of all host ciites are vibrant public life and very high levels of bicycle use among all populations.
What if I’m not used to riding a bicycle?
Can I extend my trip with personal travel?
Yes! In fact, it’s encouraged. The study tour will be a rigorous and intense program with very limited time for personal exploration. Taking a few days to travel on your own before or after the trip is highly recommended. We’ve spent a lot of time in Northern Europe and can gladly provide travel recommendations or ideas if you wish.
Can my spouse/significant other join me?
No. Our group size is strictly limited in order to travel efficiently and maintain fairness to all delegates. The program will be very full and intensely focused on adapting European concepts to help American cities succeed. However, we encourage your spouse or significant other to join you for personal travel before or after the study tour.
Where will we stay?
Accommodation will be provided in high-quality, centrally-located hotels in the host cities in the Netherlands and Spain.
How will we get around?
Group travel will take advantage of the rich intermodality of the European transportation systems, combining regional rail for inter-city travel with bicycles, walking and light rail/subway/streetcars for local site visits.
What about weather?
The springtime climate in Spain is generally mild with temperatures typically reaching highs the 60s and 70s and lows at night dropping to the 40s. The mild maritime climate of the Netherlands in June will be similar with highs in the 60s and 70s and nighttime lows in the 40s. Clouds are likely, and showers are a possibility on any day at any time of year. We will ride bikes each day regardless of weather. The locals’ technique of riding with an open umbrella is surprisingly easy to master.
What to wear?
No special clothing is required for riding a bicycle. European dress tends to be informal but chic and cosmopolitan. Nice jeans, slacks and comfortable shoes along with fitted shirts, blouses and a weather-resistant jacket is a good choice most days. A rain jacket, gloves and a packable umbrella are a must. A scarf or hat is also a good idea for cooler days. Daily wear should emphasize comfort for moving around and layers for variable conditions. Pack light for easy travel – some trips will transfer hotels once. Laundry services will be available at hotels.
Who is involved?
Since 2009, more than 300 city officials and professionals have participated in PeopleForBikes study tours. Study tours are a core element of the Green Lane Project and a powerful tool for helping leaders develop and implement a vision for better streets back home. Previous delegations have represented large cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Austin and Washington DC, as well as smaller municipalities such as Memphis, Madison, WI and Columbia, MO. Zach Vanderkooy is the primary architect of the study tours. Trained at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the National Outdoor Leadership School, Zach is both an experienced travel guide and expert in comparative international urban design and planning. He loves helping U.S. city leaders use a visit to Europe to have catalytic conversations about the future of their cities.
What is PeopleForBikes?
Launched in 1999 as Bikes Belong, PeopleForBikes is both an industry coalition of bicycling suppliers and retailers, as well as a charitable foundation. PeopleForBikes supports national and local initiatives that work to make bicycling better in America, and make America better through bicycling. PlacesForBikes is a PeopleForBikes program that helps cities and towns quickly build and connect great places to ride.