Dutch transportation experts begin Think Bike workshop in Chattanooga

photo Dutch transportation planner Dick van Veen, a consultant/designer at Mobycon, speaks to local cyclists during a riding tour through North Chattanooga to discuss bicycle transportation plans as part of the ThinkBike workshop.

IF YOU GO• What: Think Bike conference public presentation of traffic recommendations• When: Today from 5:30 to 7 p.m.• Where: Chattanooga Downtown Public Library, fourth floor

ON THE WEBLink to the Forbes story on Chattanooga being a top cycling city

photo Local cyclists take a riding tour through North Chattanooga to discuss bicycle transportation plans as part of the ThinkBike workshop.

Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke welcomed a team of Dutch transportation specialists from the Dutch Cycling Embassy on Monday morning at the opening of the Think Bike workshop, which is aimed at looking for ways to improve the citiy's bicycle safety and transportation infrastructure and to boost the quality of life for visitors and residents.

Berke highlighted a recent report in Forbes magazine that named Chattanooga as one of 10 cities in the world where "bicycles rule the streets."

The Forbes piece cited the city's Bicycle Transit System, saying it "puts the Southern city in the same league as bigger, better known capitols."

"This is fantastic branding for us," Berke said. "But I don't want people to believe that it's all about a title in a magazine or the way in which people come here to visit us.

"Because what Think Bike is all about is how do we animate our citizens? How is it that we grow our quality of life not just for the people who come here to visit but for the people who live here?"

More than 60 cycling enthusiasts and public safety experts met at the Development Resource Center downtown for a presentation on the Dutch cycling philosophy and how those concepts can be applied in other metro areas.

Workshop members then broke up into teams and took to the streets on bicycles to assess the needs and potential for better bicycle traffic facilities in Chattanooga.

The Think Bike workshop, which was made possible at no cost to the city because of funding from the Benwood Foundation and Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga, will focus on developing ideas for how to improve cycling facilities on the Frazier Avenue-Cherokee Boulevard area in North Chattanooga and the Virginia Avenue corridor in St. Elmo.

"We really want what we come up with here to be something that is quickly implementable," said Blythe Bailey, administrator of the city's Transportation Department. "We don't want the work here to be something that gets talked about and then put aside for long-term discussion and maybe not happen."

After touring the test areas, workshop members will begin brainstorming at the Company Lab and Greenspaces to prepare a series of recommendations which will be presented to city leaders and the public today.

The three-person Dutch team arrived in Chattanooga on Sunday and toured the city to get a first look at traffic patterns and cycling in the city ahead of their work.

"This is a city with potential, but there's still a lot to be done," said Dutch Cycling Embassy transportation specialist Tom Godefrooij. "You have lots of space that can be worked at, but there is still work to be done, otherwise we wouldn't be here."

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

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