published Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Think Bike bringing Dutch concepts to Scenic City

Kaitlyn Ware, left, and Jason Burford ride bicycles in front of the Hunter Museum of American Art in this file photo. A group of Dutch cycling experts is visiting Chattanooga this week.
Kaitlyn Ware, left, and Jason Burford ride bicycles in front of the Hunter Museum of American Art in this file photo. A group of Dutch cycling experts is visiting Chattanooga this week.
Photo by Doug Strickland.

DUTCH CYCLING

• The Netherlands is the only country in the world with more bicycles (18 million) than inhabitants (16.5 million).

• Boys and girls between 12 and 16 years old average 6.5 kilometers a day on bicycles, with about 70 percent using a bike to get to school each day.

• Though fewer than 0.5 percent of cyclists use helmets, the Netherlands is the safest cycling country in the world, with fewer than 10 fatalities per billion kilometers ridden.

• This level of safety is achieved through transportation policies designed to achieve an "optimal mix of transport modes to meet the need for travel of individuals on the one hand and the best overall result for society on the other hand."

Source: Dutch Cycling Embassy/Chattanooga

When it comes to bicycling, few know more about it than residents of the Netherlands.

And they're bringing their expertise to the Scenic City this week to help make Chattanooga a safer place for cyclists and motorists to travel together.

Chattanooga has put an emphasis on making biking safer and more accessible in recent years, especially in the downtown and North Shore area. The city's Bike Transit System was launched in 2012 to provide a reasonably priced bike rental system with stations throughout downtown, North Chattanooga and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and more bike lanes have been added to city streets over the past several years.

Three transportation specialists with the Dutch Cycling Embassy will be in Chattanooga on Monday and Tuesday to conduct a Think Bike workshop. They will work with Chattanooga transportation leaders to look for ways to apply Dutch cycling concepts and transportation design to our area -- and specifically to areas in St. Elmo and along Cherokee Boulevard in North Chattanooga.

With its mostly mild weather and relatively flat terrain, the Netherlands is one of the most bicycle-friendly countries in the world -- 27 percent of all trips are made by bicycle, including 40 percent of trips shorter than 5 kilometers. With such a large number of cyclists, creating infrastructure to accommodate all kinds of traffic is very important.

"They have this in their blood," Blythe Bailey, administrator for the Chattanooga Transportation Department, said of the Dutch embassy. "They go around and partner with cities to do this. They've done this in Austin [Texas] and Miami, and they will be doing one of these workshops in Chicago immediately after their visit here."

After a workshop in Memphis fell through, Cortney Mild with the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency was able to get the Dutch Cycling Embassy to schedule the workshop in Chattanooga with help from the Benwood Foundation and the Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga.

"It's really focused on enhancing the biking infrastructure for the 8-to-80 crowd," Bailey said. "We want people to feel safe [bicycling] on the roads and in what we do."

Specifically the workshop will be developing recommendations on how to apply Dutch cycling policies in the Frazier Avenue/Cherokee Boulevard area and the Virginia Avenue area in St. Elmo.

"The scales and traffic volumes are totally different on Frazier Avenue and in St. Elmo," Bailey said. "But we hope they are projects that we can repeat and use in other neighborhoods."

After a welcome by Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and others Monday morning at the Development Resource Center on Market Street, Dutch and local cycling advocates will hit the streets on bikes before beginning planning work at the offices of The Company Lab and Greenspaces on Monday night and Tuesday.

The group will present its recommendations to the public Tuesday afternoon on the fourth floor of the Public Library.

"The more people know about the opportunities for biking as transportation, the more likely they are to give it a try," he said. "When you do things like bike share and have events like this ... you spread the word that this is a possibility.

"We're not trying to force anyone to change their habits. We're just trying make sure that everybody realizes all the choices and options that they could be taking."

Contact Jim Tanner at jtanner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6478.

about Jim Tanner...

Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...

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