New ideas for cycling in Philadelphia

In the Netherlands, everyone rides a bike, even Queen Beatrix. The Dutch enjoy riding around on two wheels so much that they even invented the beer bike, which is pretty much what it sounds like – a mobile keg party.

Given that expertise, it was only natural that Philadelphia turned to the Dutch to do a little brainstorming about how to improve cycling here. Representatives from the Netherlands group, Interface for Cycling Expertise, or I-CE, were in Philadelphia last week to encourage more two-wheeled transportation.

Beer bikes were not among the ideas discussed during a presentation Tuesday at Temple University. Instead, participants, including city transportation and planning employees, members of the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and others presented a vision of a Philadelphia where people can share bikes a la Philly CarShare and ride more safely, perhaps in lanes separated from traffic by parked cars or small traffic islands. One focus was the area around City Hall, which can feel like the Indianapolis 500, regardless of whether you are walking, driving or cycling.

There, the group talked about creating a dedicated bike lane on the inside track, next to the large urban plaza where City Hall sits. They also explored implementing what is known in planning circles as a “Barnes Dance” at the intersection of 15th streets and JFK Boulevard. Named for New York City traffic engineer Henry Barnes, the dance stops car traffic in all directions at the same time, allowing pedestrians to cross as they wish, including diagonally.

Heard in the Hall can hear the wailing from drivers already, but there is no need to shift into outrage overdrive. The whole idea was to discuss ideas, city transportation and planning officials said.

And even the Dutch consultants did not see Philadelphia or any American city quickly embracing bicycles the way people in the Netherlands do.

“We never had that type of car culture that you have here. Your starting position is more difficult,” Tom Godefrooij, Coordinator of support to Cities for I-CE.

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