Honk! Concepts Run Wild at Dutch-American Bike Slam

Remember our New York and Dutch friends and their New Amsterdam Bike Slam and invitational event announcement and article of 19 August (newamsterdambikeslam.org)? Well they did it and the following article from today’s New York Times tells the story.

By Sean Patrick Farrell
Source: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/09/22/concepts-run-wild-at-dutch-american-bike-slam/

It was Saturday night in the meatpacking district. The velvet ropes were out; a rumbling bass pulsed out of every club.

Well, nearly every club. At Cielo, which says on its Web site that it is “purpose-built for dancing with a centrally located sunken dance floor,” no one was shaking it. Instead, a rapt crowd, many of them sitting on the purpose-built dance floor, watched two teams of Dutch and American designers make pleas for their plans to improve bicycle riding in New York City. A slow-turning disco ball cast speckled light across the audience, but all eyes were on a pair of monitors on a stage and Team Amsterdam’s presenter.

“You think that’s enough greenways?” Michael Mandiberg, a Brooklyn-based artist and designer, asked the crowd as he pulled up a map of Manhattan, its West Side and East Side bike paths highlighted.

Mr. Mandiberg and 11 other designers, architects, planners and bike thinkers from the United States and the Netherlands were in the final competition stage of the New Amsterdam Bike Slam.

BrightNYC conceptBrightNYC An artist’s rendering of an idea for a bicycle freeway that might run underneath existing elevated highways. Riders would not have to stop for lights, cross-traffic or rain.

As a part of New York’s all things Dutch celebration of the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival, the Bike Slam, a four-day conference that was part infrastructure symposium and part reality television show competition, was held Sept. 9-12. New York City’s Transportation Alternatives, the pedestrian and cyclist advocacy group, and Amsterdam’s Velo Mondial were the hosts.

After days of touring the city on bikes and brainstorming to create a vision to spur a million more cyclists onto New York’s streets, the two teams were coming into the final stretch and pitching their plans. Anything — cost, infrastructure and political battles be damned — seemed fair game.

Mr. Mandiberg hit another button on his laptop, and a new greenway lit up in the center of the island. “How about one up the middle?” The crowd responded with hoots and cheers. “Broadway is the obvious choice,” he said. Turn Broadway into a bike-only thoroughfare? Sure, why not?

Mr. Mandiberg ran through another series of possible improvement for the city’s cyclists; a glass cube with interior space for bike parking at 1 Centre Street. He called for lockers and showers at the Municipal Building for commuting city workers.

The D.J. spun Queen’s “Bicycle Race” during an interlude. Then it was back to business.

Team New York took the stage (each team had three Dutch and three American members.)

Ineke Spapé, a Dutch traffic and urban designer, made a similar plea for a Broadway reduced to bikes and buses only.

Her call to turn Governors Island into a bike training center where everyone, police officers and cabbies included, would have to take a cycling test, was met with big applause.

Then it was on to the young. Early indoctrination is key to the Dutch cycling ethos. Children get bike education in schools, according to Team Amsterdam’s Wendy Schipper, a sustainability project manager for the Department of Infrastructure, Traffic and Transportation for the city of Amsterdam. “They get a diploma when they graduate,” she explained.

Ms. Schipper’s team wondered whether New Yorkers might someday allow their children to be led to school as a big “bike posse.” Envision an adult cyclist “bus driver” leading a group of schoolchildren on bikes to and from class.

Both teams were appalled by the lack of safety at the off ramp from the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. Team New York called for a Budnick Bikeway style lane, raised and separated from traffic, that might connect all the way to Lafayette Street.

But Team Amsterdam had more tricks up its sleeves. How about bicycle freeways? asked Carmen Trudell, a New York architect and City University professor. Imagine a bicycle speedway running under the shadow of Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive, a rain-free place for athletic cyclists out on training rides or those who just are not going to go at a “Dutch pace.”

The idea helped cinch the victory for Team Amsterdam in impressing the judges, who included a professor of Sustainable Processes at Portland State and Renaud Dutreil, the chairman of the North American unit of the luxury and fashion conglomerate LVMH and a noted Dutch bike enthusiast.

Florent Morellet, a guest judge who is a former restaurateur and a member of the transportation committee of New York City Community Board 2, applauded the idea of a bike freeway. “It’s not that far-fetched,” he said, “for people like me who go live downtown and need to go uptown fast. If a bicycle stops at every light, it becomes so slow it isn’t worth it.”

Shin-pei Tsay, the deputy director of Transportation Alternatives and a Bike Slam organizer, praised the ideas generated by the participants. She was struck by a Dutch idea for bicycle ferries, which could help inspire new cyclists by overcoming the daunting length and hills of the city’s bridges.

Ms. Tsay said Transportation Alternatives staff members would be traveling to Amsterdam this fall to continue to learn from the city and might stage a repeat of the Bike Slam there.

The members of the winning team from Saturday’s event was awarded bragging rights and their very own Dutch bikes. No word on whether they would be allowed on the bike freeway.

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