The Green Lane Project’s eye-opening study tours are now open to any city

September 15, 2014

Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer

For five years, PeopleForBikes has brought more than 250 Americans to the Northern European cities that open people's eyes to the massive potential of bicycle transportation as a tool for city improvement.

We've taken politicians, business leaders, engineers, planners and community advocates to the Dutch cities of Utrecht, Zwolle, and Amsterdam (the biking capital of the world, it has about the same population as Charlotte); Malmo, Sweden; Odense and Copenhagen, Denmark (the site of the world's biggest biking comeback, it has about the same population as Indianapolis); and other thriving Dutch and Danish cities large and small where biking is a normal, desirable part of everyday life.

Participants meet the professionals and civic leaders who've led these countries' livability booms, often in the face of temporary public opposition, and helped create some of the most prosperous, egalitarian and beloved cities in the modern world.

“Anyone who’s interested in building a great city for the people in their city needs to come on this trip," said Tami Door, CEO of the Downtown Denver Partnership and a participant in our 2014 delegation to Denmark. "They need to experience what they’re reading about and hearing about. They need to get out and ride the bikes and talk to the people that are really making it happen."

Starting next summer, teams of leaders and visionaries who are interested in building a great city can come on these trips.

We're proud to be opening Green Lane Project tours, for the first time, to delegations from anywhere in the country where leaders are ready to re-imagine the purpose and function of their streets.

Cities' only requirement is to successfully apply, and to find a way to cover a share of their delegation's costs.

A track record of breakthroughs back home

From John Cameron, the Memphis traffic engineer who returned from Amsterdam and coordinated his city's rapid advance to become a national leader in bikeway design, to Pat Dowell, the Chicago alderman who returned from a tour of Denmark, immediately started riding her bike around Ward 3 and threw her support behind a set of youth bike education classes and buffered and protected bike lanes through the near South Side, Green Lane Project tours are proven to reshape attitudes and spark great ideas.

There's only one way for city leaders to reach those revelations: in person.

"How would you paint a desert landscape if you’ve never left Rhode Island?" asks Zach Vanderkooy, who created the PeopleForBikes program in 2009 and has curated study tours for selected North American leaders over the last five years.

"Understanding and experiencing some of the world's most livable cities is inspiring, but that's only part of the value," Vanderkooy said. "Study tours are rolling conversations about how to implement change on streets in America. It's a powerful tool for creating the focus, teamwork, and confidence necessary for a city to be effective at creating great streets and public spaces."

For the price of $4,000 for each of 4 to 12 delegates, not including airfare, participants receive all expenses from airplane to airplane. Included are five nights in single-occupancy hotel rooms, all meals, all ground transportation, course materials and professional guide services. Vanderkooy handles all the logistics, combining meetings with European officials and transportation experts, hands-on site visits by bike, and facilitated strategizing on how to implement the best ideas in the North American context.

For Bill Peduto, the mayor of Pittsburgh who joined a Danish study tour in 2014 and promptly announced a multi-year program of new protected bike lanes, the magic of the tour was the chance to do what every local leader longs for a chance to do: talk frankly and directly with other movers and shakers about the big questions facing their cities.

“You get out of the weeds," Peduto said. "You’re able to rise above it and to think big thoughts. You think about 10 years from now, and what do you want your city to look like 25 years from now. You see it from a micro level; you see it from a macro level. The only way you actually get to see it is to be here.”

Apply by Oct. 1 to secure the best dates

PeopleForBikes study tours are designed for teams of multidisciplinary, cross-sector innovators, change agents, and urban visionaries. Public sector staff and officials are typically the backbone of a delegation, along with leaders from the private, academic, institutional, non-profit and philanthropy sectors.

Next summer's tours will be open to about 100 participants from cities across the country. For more information, read about it on our Summer of Study Tours page, and submit an application by Oct. 1 in order to secure the best available dates. (You don't need to have any money in hand until Dec. 1, when a $750 deposit will be due.)

For Sam Chase, an elected councilor in Portland's regional government who joined a Dutch study tour in 2013 and decided to make a long-discussed off-street path through North Portland one of his top political priorities, the Green Lane Project tour offers something for people at all levels of leadership.

“Everybody seemed to be getting something important out of it," Chase said afterward. "Everyone was coming from a different work environment and decisionā€making position so everybody had different kinds of information that they were gathering that was helpful, but everybody was really learning something that they could take back home and do something with."

The Green Lane Project is a PeopleForBikes program that helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. You can follow us on Twitter or Facebook or sign up for our weekly news digest about protected bike lanes. Story tip? Write [email protected]

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