The Netherlands and Denmark are internationally renowned for safe and integrated multi-modal transportation and elegant urban design. Steady investments in bicycling and transit have enabled Dutch and Danish 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 countries, 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 Netherlands and Denmark for use on unique American streets.
Visiting Dutch and Danish cities offers American city leaders a chance to experience a fully realized, mature urban mobility system in action. It's not just about bikes. Northern Europe offers 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.
It wasn’t always this way in the Netherlands and Denmark. Both European nations have overcome challenges similar to contemporary U.S. cities in transforming their streets. Dutch and Danish 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.
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:
What does it cost?
TBD for 2017. 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.
Custom study tours are available for city delegations ready to take the next steps toward vibrant neighborhoods and safe, comfortable streets.
What places will the trips visit?
The Netherlands delegation will spend time in Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and either 's-Hertogenbosch, Tilburg, Delft, Nijmegen, Zwolle, Groningen or other small to mid-size Dutch cities. The Scandinavian trip will be based in Copenhagen, with visits to either Odense, Aarhus and/or Malmo, Sweden. 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 Utrecht and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and Copenhagen and Odense in Denmark.
How will we get around?
Group travel will take advantage of the rich intermodality of the Dutch and Danish 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 maritime climates in the Netherlands and Denmark are generally mild, with spring and fall day temperatures typically reaching highs the 50s and 60s and lows at night dropping to 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. Northern 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 275 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. The Green Lane Project is a program of PeopleForBikes.