ThinkBike Miami 2011

Florida city looks to the Dutch for bicycle advice

What do you do if you have a city with near perfect year round weather, but still face the hurdles associated with bettering bike awareness and acceptance? In Miami, city planners turned to the cycling rich nation of The Netherlands for help.

On 2-3 May, three Dutch cycling experts headed to Florida to present the ThinkBike Workshop offering advice on how to encourage pro-bicycle attitudes in Miami.

The biggest challenge the experts identified is the city’s traffic, and how to change the automobile focused mentality. “Keep in mind that every car driver is a potential cyclist,” Hillie Talens, project manager for Infrastructure and Transportation of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington DC told BikeRadar. “A cyclist has as many rights as a car driver. For the cyclists: don’t let [drivers] push you to the extreme side of the road and behave [ride with] self-confidence.”

Due to the momentum created by the workshop, riders may, soon, have more space to call their own as Florida’s transportation department and some local governments embarked on a push to retrofit the streets and roads of Miami-Dade County to accommodate, even embrace, bicycles.

Talens says that Miami is actually an ideal American city to embrace cycling, and that its tree-lined streets create an idyllic setting for riders. “Early in the morning and later in the afternoon the conditions, as we experienced them, are perfect for cycling at a moderate speed,” says Talens. “Maybe that does not fit in a nine-to-five mentality, but many don’t work according to those traditional times anymore.”

Local riders, however, see many challenges ahead. “The biggest hurdle for the Miami-Miami Beach cycling community is the addition of more biking infrastructure such as dedicated bike lanes and paths connecting local municipalities to improve overall connectivity for cyclists,” says Colby Reese, co-founder of DecoBike Miami Beach. “I do, without a doubt, think that Miami and Miami Beach do hold the key to being the cycling capital of the South.”

Currently, Reese says that Miami Beach has a daily commuter ridership of about 16 percent of the population, which is roughly 8 times greater than the national average. “I think speaks for itself,” says Reese. “The addition of a public bike sharing program like DecoBike only enhances the ability of the general population to utilize a bike as their means of daily transportation. We are also encouraging many local businesses to cover the costs of commuter employees in lieu of expensive and hard-to-find car parking.”

Since its opening, DecoBike has had the highest usage of our bikes versus any other bike sharing program in North America. “We are very excited about rolling out the balance of our fleet of bikes and stations!”

Jeroen Kosters of the Royal Netherlands Embassy says that cycling remains a personal choice, but that providing good facilities including infrastructure, parking space and showers will influence the choice of pedaling over automobiles. “There are many reasons for an individual to get on his bike instead of in his car; health, fun, efficiency, cost of transport etc. Respect them all. People do not need to ride their bikes all the time. Even if an individual uses his bike once a week for commuting it would be a step forward.”

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