Members of the Dutch Cycling Embassy are in Pittsburgh for a couple of days to examine the Forbes and Fifth corridors in Oakland, and to offer insight into how the roadways could be made more bicycle-friendly.
"It's a tough challenge, you have to be honest, because the car culture here is much more dominant than it is in Europe, but at the same time there are very promising developments. The trends for cycling in the U.S. are going up," said Tom Godefrooij, senior policy advisor for the Dutch Cycling Embassy.
Cycling is very widespread in the Netherlands. It's estimated that some 40% of people there ride bicycles on a daily basis for commuting and shopping, among other things.
"And it didn't get there just because the Dutch have something else going on in their veins. It happens very consciously. They design for bikes. They put bikes into public policy and prioritize bicycle infrastructure in everything they do in terms of road projects and public space projects," said Scott Bricker, CEO of Bike Pittsburgh.
The Dutch mobility experts will spend Thursday and Friday examining Fifth and Forbes and will issue a report of what needs to happen to make that area more accessible to bicyclists, but even when those recommendations come, there will be some challenges. Bricker said the roadways in question are owned by the state, so the city of Pittsburgh doesn't have control over them. So, he added, any developments will require cooperation between local and state officials. Plus, there is a long history of roadway design being built solely around making sure it's efficient for cars to travel.
Bricker said Oakland will be one of the most important places to determine how to incorporate bicycle safety, "because of the tens of thousands of students, faculty, staff, and health care institutions that are in Oakland. It's a destination for work, it's a destination for play, and if you're not going to Oakland for one reason or another, you're going through it, so it's really the lynchpin or the keystone."
Members from the Dutch Cycling Embassy started advising cities in 2010. They've already made recommendations for Chicago, Washington, DC, Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Toronto.