The Swiss Embassy hosted a bike commuter program the week before Bike to Work Day. Michael E. Jackson, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Access Director for Maryland, was the moderator. He showed a photo of street signs in Madison that treated bike paths like they would roads (sort of like the photo at right of a trail intersection).
Elmer Lendergerber, who usually bike commutes, had just retired as Mayor of Zurich and talked about biking in Zurich. Zurich has a 7% bike mode share - despite being more spread out. In 1984 they passed a bicycle initiative. By 1994 bike share was about 3.8% and it was up to 7% by 2000 but it has stagnated since then. Their program sounds DC's bicycle master plan but several years down the road (bike routes, parking, bike lanes and sharrows, bike training for kids, a bike station and limited bike share), so it's encouraging that 7% is doable. But it also appears that more is needed to break through to double digit bike share.
Tommy Wells spoke next. He talked about how he didn't come to the District Building to be a bike advocate, he came to encourage walkable, livable communities. But when he got there, there was nowhere for him to park his bike. So he would park his bike - unlocked - in an on street councilmember space (which one guest pointed out is illegal). Only Marion Barry had the gumption to pick up his bike and move it out of the way and onto the sidewalk. So, now the District Building has a bike room - named for David Clark. DC's walk/bike share, CM Wells pointed out, is 15.8% (compared to Zurich's 52%) and transit of 34% (compared to 28%) so in some ways we compare wells and in others, not so well. But CM Wells doesn't think we're going to get there by "just painting stripes". He wants to see a few cycle tracks go in - in places such as M Street SE/SW and on Pennsylvania Avenue NW between the Capitol and the White House, "the most famous street in the United States".
Dr. Gotschi from Rails-to-Trails talked about the Active Transportation for America push in the upcoming transportation bill. Guess what? Countries that spend a lot on biking, have a lot of cyclists.
Michelle Kranz of Swiss Tourism of North America talked about all the places there are to bike in Switzerland. You can bring a bike on any train, any time. Nice.
Afterwards there was a reception at the Ambassador's residence. Rep Earl Blumenhauer spoke briefly, but unfortunately it was before George Will's anti-Portland article so we didn't get his response. But he did talk about how Portland is able to draw people interested in a transit-friendly, bikeable, walkable city. They're helping cities in California learn how to do what they've done, he joked, so that Californians would stay home.
Congratulations to the Swiss Embassy for putting on a great event.
Photo by TouringCyclist