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A bicyclist travels west on First Street in the bike lane Tuesday near the intersection of D Street. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Local News

The road left unpedaled: Davis looks abroad for cycling advice

By From page A1 | June 26, 2014

Soon, Davis residents may be biking like the Dutch.
With one of the highest bicycle-friendly ratings of any American city by the exacting League of American Cyclists, Davis has few places left to look for new bicycling standards but abroad.
Far away from sunny Davis, the Dutch and Danish have built cycling empires throughout their road networks tested over decades. The Swedes have their “Vision Zero” — just adopted by New York City — to radically ensure the fewest number of traffic-related deaths as humanly possible.
These countries’ advice is sought after worldwide. They tend to advise what is, in America, vastly unfamiliar kinds of roadway solutions, and Davis has been instructed by the City Council to seek out a Dutch vision on specific pieces in Davis’ East Covell Corridor Plan.
The Dutch build their vehicular roadways around bikes and pedestrians, while in America the car is king.
City Councilman Brett Lee convinced his colleagues to direct city staff to seek out the Dutch Cycling Embassy on April 22 to address where the best location and design of bike-friendly grade-separated crossings would be at The Cannery development in the East Covell Corridor Plan.
Lee said in an interview that his motivation was not purely to seek out international advice, but instead noted experts.
“We were talking about $14 million,” he said, adding that a then-estimated $25,000 cost on the front end to ensure the designs would work was quality control.
“When Davis needs some advice on bicycle connectivity, I think in Holland and in Denmark they are leaders,” Lee said. “If we picked a random U.S. city out of a map, we would be ahead of them.”
Lee raised the issue after he determined that neighborhood meetings made the prioritization of projects on the East Covell Corridor Plan, and not experts.
“The people taking the leadership should be the architects and engineers,” he said. Lee worked for many years as a project engineer himself. “If we were planning on making a $100,000 improvement, we wouldn’t need outside experts to come in.”
Lee cautions that Davis doesn’t have to have a Dutch system, but the community can gain from the transfer of knowledge.
Davis has been talking with the Dutch Cycling Embassy for weeks, and could sign a contract with a member agency of the Embassy sometime in the near future, according to Dave “DK” Kemp, Davis active transportation coordinator.
If the contract goes through, the Dutch will find familiar echoes of European cycling ideas in Davis’ Beyond Platinum Bicycle Action Plan, the city’s recently approved bike infrastructure and education Bible.
In it, Dutch ideas like roadways that are made to make normal people feel comfortable cycling alongside traffic are there, as well as the idea that better-educated cyclists make for safer roadways.
There’s even a nod to Sweden and New York City’s “Vision Zero”: The plan calls for a 50 percent drop in bike-related crashes by 2020 and a 30 percent decline by 2017.
“We’d love to see zero crashes, but there’s some reality to that,” Kemp said.
How to achieve less crashes?
By designing safer bike routes that woo recreational cyclists into going around town with their bike, the ranks of bicyclists will swell.
“As more drivers transition to cycling, there will be fewer cars on the roads and therefore fewer potential conflicts between different road users,” the plan states.
Indeed the vision of the plan is that in time, “Davis will become a world-class bicycling city where a majority of people of all ages and abilities choose bicycling as their primary mode of transportation for everyday trips.”
The Dutch will find that a reflection of how their countrymen use bikes. Amsterdam alone has a 40 percent bike transportation mode share, meaning that percentage of people ride bicycles as opposed to walk or drive a car. Davis has an estimated 25 percent mode share for bikes last reported in 2012.
According to a Boston Globe article about that city’s lessons from the Dutch, the Netherlands has 21,000 miles of separated bike facilities. This, it should be noted, is in a country roughly the size of Connecticut and Massachusetts put together.
Davis has more than 50 miles of off-street shared use paths, plus the bike lanes that are on city streets.
If the Dutch agree to a price for helping Davis, it’s likely Davis will be dealing with the Dutch Cycling Embassy member agency called Mobycon.
Mobycon is an independent research and consulting company with what their website calls 25 years of experience of working in the Netherlands.
“We view the streets as public spaces that should be safe and accessible for all users,” the website says.
According to Mobycon, the Dutch are split evenly between riding bikes, 36 percent, and driving cars, 36 percent, while those walking, 27 percent.
Mobycon says it employs the Dutch techniques that made the mode share so evenly split.
“Applying the Dutch approach, we were able to help communities and businesses develop transportation options so people can choose the quickest mode for each trip,” their website says.
– Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or call 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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