The Dutch’s Think Bike Workshop Comes to LA with an Interesting View of Our Streets

Dutch Bicycle Engineer Hillie Talens leads a presentation at a packed City Council Board Room. I counted over 110 people in attendance.

Earlier today, Hillie Talens, a Dutch Bicycle Engineer, kicked off the two-day “Think Bike” planning workshop in Downtown Los Angeles with an interesting presentation at City Hall. The bicycle planners, which are different than traditional transportation planners who are focused on the automobile, will lead three groups in redesign exercises for Van Nuys Boulevard in the Valley, Jefferson Boulevard in South L.A., and parts of Downtown Los Angeles. The innovative program is sponsored by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and the LADOT.

Talens’ entire presentation will be posted at the LADOT Bike Blog later, and we’ll link to it then. More exciting than the series of road treatments she outlined that are popular in Dutch cities was what she had to say about Los Angeles.

After comparing our situation to that of Miami, cities with wide streets and hotter-than-average climates, Talen discussed how Dutch planners are jealous of Los Angeles’ streets. The jealousy isn’t because of what we do with them, but what we could.

“As Dutch, we are envious of how much space you have,” Talens commented. “There’s a lot you can do with roads that wide.”

This statement is sort of remarkable to hear for transportation advocates. Too often, reformers are told that the city is limited in its options because there’s only so much space on the streets. But here, an expert in transportation options is telling us the opposite, that our streets are brimming with potential.

Think Bike is on a tour of sorts this week, and this team was in San Francisco completing a similar program earlier this week. Talens herself learned something new in the Bay Area and was excited about the “Parkletts” program where car parking spaces are permanently turned into mini-parks. L.A. Councilmen Jose Huizar and Jan Perry are pushing L.A. to consider a similar program and Talens vowed to take the program back to the Netherlands.

Over 100 people packed the City Council Chambers to hear Talens’ presentation, including LADOT General Manager Jaime De La Vega (who, like me, was probably thrilled not to be at the Metro Board Meeting), LAPD Sargent David Krumer, crews from LADOT Bikeways and Metro’s bicycle division, City Council staff and a who’s who of bike advocates ranging from LACBC staff to the Bike Oven’s documentary film crew: Josef Bray-Ali and DJ Chicken Leather.

Included in the attendees was Dale Benson, the head of bicycle planning at Caltrans’ District 7, who was excited about what he heard and the planning process of the next two days.

“It’s good to see Los Angeles thinking about new ideas,” he began. “It’s good to see them willing to think about the benefits of bikes.”

The session will end with a closing ceremony where the final designs will be unveiled tomorrow at 3:30 at the LAPD’s auditorium. We’ll have more coverage of Think Bike on Monday.