I’m on my way to Europe! Thoughts before the trip and a request for ideas – BikePortland | Popgen Tech


To bags packed and ready to go. (Photo: Taylor Griggs/BikePortland)

If you’re involved in bicycle advocacy, you’re probably familiar with the wistful longing for the cycling infrastructure and policies of the major European cycling cities felt by many American activists. In Portland, our city planners and engineers lifted design inspiration from cities in the Netherlands and Denmark. Now it’s my turn to see what all the fuss is about: After a stop at home (in Denver), I’m heading out on a trip across the pond and I want to know what BikePortland wants me to cover while I there is.

When I was planning a trip to visit my sister Kylie, who is teaching English in Spain for a year, I got the idea to sneak a few more places into the trip and take BikePortland international for a few weeks to doing research and immersion. (I’m very lucky to have a job where I can do that!) The result of my planning is a European itinerary that includes Brussels; The Netherlands (Utrecht and Amsterdam); Copenhagen; Malmö, Sweden; Paris and Spain (Bilbao and Barcelona). Other than a few scheduled plans, like taking a tour of some bicycle infrastructure in Paris built under the new mayor and a date to join a “bicíbus” in Barcelona, ​​my schedule is mostly open.

Jonathan, who did a similar trip in 2013, encouraged me not to overbook to explore freely, but I feel like having a few more ideas and connections before I get there might be helpful.

Me (far left) at 17 in Hamburg, Germany.

I’m lucky enough to have been to Europe twice before: once in 2014, on a high school choir and band trip to Germany with about 75 other American teenagers (I cringe to think how we performed) and again in 2017, when I was studying. abroad in Prague for six months. I didn’t go on one of those trips thinking about urban planning and transportation, but looking back, it’s clear that I was fascinated by urban design, even if I didn’t know it yet.

The most memorable day of our high school trip was when the teachers dropped us off in downtown Hamburg and told us to free fly for six hours. My friends and I walked and walked, passing parks with incredibly luxurious playgrounds, stopping at shops and cafes along the way. We thought we felt free because there were no adults watching our every move. But how much of that freedom was really because we could travel through an entire city on foot alone, without ever crossing a six-lane road with cars whizzing by at 45 miles per hour?

I doubt the chaperones on our high school trip to Germany could explain exactly why they felt good about letting a group of 14-18 year olds loose in Hamburg, but surely the built environment had something to do with it. I still look back on that day as one of the most magical of my life to date.

This time I go into my journey with a perspective I haven’t had before. After spending more than a year almost every day thinking and writing about some aspect of transportation infrastructure—and learning about technical, wonky stuff like signal timing and parking protected bike lanes—I see and experience the world in a new way .

This new perspective involves me being an active participant in the cities I visit, and knowing that these places didn’t just pop up out of nowhere, but were purposefully designed to function the way they do. I’m sure I’ll be overwhelmed with awe and disbelief at bike lanes in Utrecht, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, but I don’t want to mythologize these places so that they seem completely out of reach for us at home.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. These are just my pre-ride reflections: who knows what will happen along the way! But I’d really like to know what BikePortland readers are most interested in hearing about. Please be as specific or broad as possible. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


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