KXAN (AUSTIN) - Some help from overseas--when it comes to cycling in Austin. The city is turning to the Dutch--partnering with the Netherlands to develop ways to become more bike-friendly.
The idea is to have more intersections and roads in Austin with clearly marked bike lanes and bike signals.
The city is developing a master-plan, and Thursday morning cycling and transportation experts from the Netherlands will join them.
It's all part of the "ThinkBike" program. They'll be talking about ways to improve conditions for cyclists in Austin.
Teams are meeting at City Hall to put together presentations of initiatives and proposed solutions.
The international exchange comes after an increase in concern for cyclists' safety in Austin--and on the heels of a trip to the Netherlands.
Council Member Chris Riley recently led a group of city officials on a 10-day biking tour of the Netherlands.
The group had the chance to study the lifestyle difference where biking is a way of life.
In the Netherlands, nearly 30 percent of trips up to five miles in distance are made by bicycle.
"The delegation in the Netherlands got to see first hand how a mature multi-modal system operates with a focus on the bicycle infrastructure," says Annick B eaudet, with the Public Works Department, "The Dutch are the best in the world at bicycle infrastructure. So, it was very interesting to see how the motor vehicles interacted with the bicycles; how transit vehicles operated with the bicycles on a very sophisticated level."
Beaudet says the city will look at incorporating more bike lanes, traffic signals, and adding new bike trails; all of which officials say will result in multiple benefits.
"When you look at balancing between transit, carpooling, all those other modes, we start to really lessen the demands on our infrastructure, Beaudet says, "We all know funding is scarce for all sorts of public services. So, we really do see cycling as a solution--part of the solution--to our traffic congestion and just urban problems into the future."
One of the areas in Austin garnering a lot of attention for projects like this is the South Lamar corridor, which is seeing a lot of growth.
The City of Austin wants to have 5 percent of all commuters using bikes by 2020. As of 2011, the city had 2.005 percent using them as their mode of transportation. Beaudet says that's promising for reaching their goal.
Five other U.S. cities: Chicago; Memphis; San Francisco; Portland, Ore. and Washington were selected earlier this year to participate in the same project.
The two-year effort is the work of the Green Lanes Project. City leaders' trip to the Netherlands and any research was paid for by the project.
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