Cycling in Silicon Valley

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From 7-12 May, the Dutch Cycling Embassy (DCE) visited Silicon Valley for the second part of the Fact Finding mission. During this week, Mr. Johan Diepens of Mobycon and Mr. Bas van Dijk of Lumiguide joined for the meetings.

 The mission started on Sunday, May 7th with the Silicon Valley Bike Festival in San Jose History Park. At this festival, a cycling advocates meeting was organized by Mr. Greg Unangst. During this meeting, a number of speakers shared their perspective on cycling. Among others, Mr. Sergio Ruiz of Caltrans shared the future vision of transport in relation to cycling in the state California. Caltrans is the transport department of the state California. Caltrans recently launched their future vision in which they address cycling for the first time and acknowledge their under investments in cycling in the past. In the past, Caltrans primarily focused on car drivers, so this recent transition is an exciting change. Also, Mr. John Brazil of the City of San Jose presented the current achievements of San Jose’s City Bike Plan 2020, dating from 2009. Their vision: ‘Make Cycling Safe, Convenient and Common’.

 On Monday May 8th, Mr. Russell Hancock, President of Joint Venture Silicon Valley and Mr. Michael Alba, Global Transportation Manager of LinkedIn organized a public forum for anyone interested in cycling. During the meeting, where approximately 150 people showed up, a presentation was given by Ms. Borsboom, Mr. Diepens and Mr. Van Dijk. First, the general story of DCE was shared, focusing on the organization and type of work DCE does and the current developments globally. Then Mr. van Dijk elaborated a bit more on one of the developments, guidance for bicycle parking and wayfinding. Lastly, Mr. Diepens went a bit more in detail on planning for cycling. After the presentation there was time available for questions from the audience. These questions covered many different topics, such as bike theft, bike infrastructure, bike sharing and how to finance cycling facilities.

 On the evening of Monday May 8th, experts of the Dutch Cycling Embassy shared their story at a meeting for the grassroots organizations Palo Alto Forward and Balanced Mountain View. During the evening, a lot of questions were raised, such as: how to achieve behavioral change, how to interact with all levels of stakeholders and how to overcome fear. One of the main suggestions was to aim at the local situation and to leverage it for the better. For example: focus on large companies in order to get funding. Since there is limited public money available, there should be a focus on other sources and address their local responsibilities.

 On Tuesday May 9th, an invitation only round-table was planned with senior delegates from both tech companies and cities from Silicon Valley. First, a presentation was given by experts from DCE. During this meeting a lot of topics were discussed together. It was very fruitful to share thoughts with these professionals and to discuss their current challenges. Mr. Hancock, President of Joint Venture Silicon Valley took the opportunity to invite everyone to continue to host knowledge sharing meetings on a regular schedule with all cities and companies in the region.

During the visit, two meetings with the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) were held: one for staff of VTA on Tuesday May 9th and for senior officials of cities from the county who are part of the Technical Advisory Committee on Wednesday May 10th. The staff of the Valley Transportation Authority was interested in a very large number of different topics. The audience consisted of approximately 20 officials who are working in the field of transportation in varying disciplines, such as engineering, funding, environmental planning et cetera. The questions had some challenging topics, such as how to improve safety, how can you plan cycle superhighways in environmentally vulnerable areas, how to balance all modes of transport on the streets, what to do with the last mile and how to increase the number of cyclists.

The meeting with members of the Technical Advisory Committee of different cities in the county focused on the technical aspects as well. The participants of the meeting were also quite interested in the Hovenring and its financing structuring. The price of building the Hovenring, approximately $4milion surprised them, since it would be five times the price in the US due to for example to the environmental approval process.

On Tuesday night May 9th, experts of DCE spoke about the Dutch approach to cycling in a guest lecture at San Jose State University. The event was organized by the Mineta Transportation Institute, which is a part of the state university. During this lecture, the audience consisted of people with an interest in cycling and students and teachers from urban planning. The focus of the lecture was on urban planning and design and sharing Dutch insights. After the presentations, there was time available for questions.

A final meeting was conducted to visit Mr. Brian Wiedenmeier, Executive Director of the San Francisco Bike Coalition. This organization is advocating for the bike in the city of San Francisco. This can range from advocating for new bike paths and urging the local government to fix potholes in the road to arranging education for car drivers. According to Mr. Wiedenmeier, the big difference between the Netherlands and the US is the fact that changes in bike conditions in the Netherlands are achieved by planners and governments, whereas in the US the advocacy organizations create change in acceptance of the bike. This stresses the urge for advocacy organizations, since they are able to trigger this change.  

All together we reflect on a successful Fact Finding Mission which provided great insight on the current cycling conditions and the challenges for the near future.

 Silicon Valley Bikes Festival:

bikes festival

 Public Forum LinkedIn:

Johan LI

Round table-discussion Cities and Tech companies:

 Roundtable

VTA meeting:

Bas VTA

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