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Cooperation and communication for a new bicycle policy


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A paper I wrote for the European Velocity 2007 cycling conference in Munich, Germany. It is about the importance of cooperation and communication when developing a (local) bicycle policy. Based on my personal experiences in my hometown Tilburg, Netherlands

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Cooperation and communication for a new bicycle policy

  1. 1. Velo-city 2007 – Proposal for Presentation Focal Theme: Urban Planning van der Kloof, Angela Country: The Netherlands Gender: Female Cooperation and Communication: a new Cycle-plan for the city of Tilburg (The Netherlands) Author: Name, Forename van der Kloof, Angela Contact Details: Institution, Postal Address, E-mail Cycleforum Tilburg Textielplein 86-15, 5046 RL Tilburg, The Netherlands Please fill in wether x workshop Tilburg, a short introduction Tilburg is a city in the South of the Netherlands. With 200.000 inhabitants, it is the sixth (largest) city of the country. The name of the city was first mentioned in a document in the year 709. In 1809 the city gained municipal rights, which will be celebrated in 2009 extensively. Historically Tilburg is a city of textile factories, small typical `wevershuisjes’ (houses of the working class) and small shops. Nowadays you can find a multicultural city with a lot of new urban areas. It is a city with a lot of big events like the funfair, Tilburg Ten Miles, Festival Mundial etc. Furthermore Tilburg is a students’ city with a university and other institutions for higher education. There is a rich cultural life. Next to that there are many green spots inside and outside Tilburg. This is not very obvious when you first visit the city. It is a city to explore. Cycle-planning in Tilburg Tilburg used to house the College for Traffic Engineers. This had an impact on the mentality in the city concerning cycle-planning and the design of bicycle facilities. In the 1990’s this resulted in a cycle-plan that focussed on constructing cycle lanes and bicycle parking facilities. The idea behind the cycle lanes was to construct a `sternetwerk’ (star network) of high quality cycle lanes. Cyclists can easily find the high quality lanes, that are separated from car lanes. A few years ago this `sternetwerk’ needed to be enlarged since two smaller municipalities were incorporated by the city of Tilburg. Also, the maintenance of the high quality lanes left much to be desired. Although budgets had been assigned for the maintenance of cycle infrastructure, in practice it appeared to be hard to check whether the money had been spent on the cycle lanes. This resulted in an arrear that needed extra attention. The 1990’s Cycle Plan needed to be succeeded with a new one that reflected the then-current reality.
  2. 2. Velo-city 2007 – Proposal for Presentation Focal Theme: Urban Planning van der Kloof, Angela Country: The Netherlands Gender: Female Cycle Forum Tilburg One of the non-infrastructural measures Tilburg took in the 1990’s to improve cycling in Tilburg, was to install the Cycle Forum. In 1997 it started as a platform to stimulate the bike use and organise promotional projects in which cycling was to be presented as a good alternative for car-use. A diverse group of organisations took part in the platform. During the first years the local government was one of the members of the platform and the Alderman for Traffic was the chairman. In the beginning of the year 2000 the local government decided that the Alderman should no longer be the chairman of the Cycle Forum. Up to the year 2003 there was still a civil servant active in the Cycle Forum, but after that year the roles were separated even more. Since then, the Cycle Forum operates as an independent platform that advises the local government on cycling- issues. The advice can be sought directly by the local government, but may also be provided without being called for. At the same time the Cycle Forum organises promotional activities to stimulate people to cycle. At present the members of the Cycle Forum are: - An independent chairman: Pieter van Bekkum (traffic engineer); - Inner City Foundation: Anton Jungerhans; - Cyclists’ Union: Ton Monquil and Theo Smeele; - Sustainable Tilburg (environmental NGO): Paul van Est; - Centre for sustainable development (COS) : Rina Froklage - Centre for Immigrant Women (Cycle training and promotion): Angela van der Kloof The Cycle Forum consists of a diverse group with different view-points, networks and working methods. Most of the time this is felt as a positive influence. In advising the local government, the Cycle Forum seek a common direction, based on these diverse points of view. Still, every member has the right to have an independent opinion. The local government supports the Cycle Forum. Reasons for the Alderman to do this are, for example, congestion in the inner city, poor air-quality and health-issues. Support is being given in the form of finance (a budget in 2006 of app. 25.000 euro) and a central contact person, the bicycle-officer. Also the Cycle Forum has contacts with members of the town-council and all kinds of organisations that can play a role in promotional activities. The new Cycle-plan 2005 – 2015 In the year 2004 the city of Tilburg started to develop a new Cycle-plan, after a long period of pressure from the Cycle Forum. From the beginning of this process of discussing and writing the new Cycle-plan, the Cycle Forum played a role. The joint discussion resulted in a Cycle-plan that not only focuses on infrastructural measures, but also on promotional and communicational aspects. Furthermore, it recommends that a bicycle- officer position is created in the local government. The overall goal of the Cycle-plan is to increase the proportion of trips
  3. 3. Velo-city 2007 – Proposal for Presentation Focal Theme: Urban Planning van der Kloof, Angela Country: The Netherlands Gender: Female under 7.5km made by bicycle from 34% in 2006 to 38% in the next four years. A short overview of the highlights in the Cycleplan is now provided. Infrastructural measures: - Extending the ‘sternetwerk’ routes - Maintaining and improving existing parts of the ‘sternetwerk’ routes - Paying attention to recreational routes and secondary cycle paths - Installing lighting on all ‘sternetwerk’ routes for social safety - Improving signposting and making it unambiguous - Improving and extending bicycle parking facilities - Carrying out experiments on shortening waiting times for cyclists and providing countdown systems at traffic lights - Clear and unambiguous designs of roundabouts Promotional measures: The Cycle-plan identifies a few specific target groups for promotional measures for the coming years. These groups are: - School children and youngsters in home to school routes - The shopping public - Immigrants - Companies and their employees - Visitors of big events and the organisations behind it Examples of promotional campaigns by the local government are a ‘Cycling to school’ campaign in 2006 and free guarded bicycle parking in the city centre, plus the constant opportunity for immigrants to learn to cycle in a special cycle training programme. Communicational aspects: Communication is focussed on one central message: `Cycling in Tilburg is well arranged and safe. Take your bike!’ A yearly communication plan will consist of an overall promotional campaign, communication concerning infrastructural measures and communicational activities for the above- mentioned target groups. Apart from the promotional and communication actions by the local government, the Cycle Forum can organise their own promotional activities. An annual Bike Festival used to be organised by the Cycle Forum. Since 2006 there is a Bike Week being organised by an independent NGO in cooperation with
  4. 4. Velo-city 2007 – Proposal for Presentation Focal Theme: Urban Planning van der Kloof, Angela Country: The Netherlands Gender: Female many local organisations, the Cycle Forum being an important partner. The process of cooperation and communication The fact that the local government gave the Cycle Forum a serious role in the development of the new Cycle-plan is a good example for other governments. The different focus of the policy makers (from various departments) and the members of the Cycle Forum was not always easy to work with. But by facing the differences, making room for discussion and the new perspectives, the city of Tilburg has managed to write a new Cycle-plan to be proud of. The Cycle Forum was asked to join the project group – the group responsible for producing the plan. The level of cooperation within the project group depended on different factors, such as: - Agreement on the role and responsibilities of the members of the Cycle Forum and the civil servants - Insight into each others’ expectations - Respect for each others’ opinions - The political climate - Personalities Before joining the project group the roles of the members of the Cycle Forum were discussed. There was room to bring in ideas and issues. But there was no responsibility to be taken and the Cycle Forum remained independent and kept the right to disagree on issues in the Cycle-plan. During the year of meetings and the writing of the report these roles were respected. The expectations of the Cycle Forum were high on the one hand, but still it realised that there was a need to be realistic and try to think along in a constructive manner. The political climate then changed in a short period. It changed from a rather low level of interest into a more acute interest. An important reason for that was the results of research on air quality in which Tilburg scored very poorly. In the project group there was a number of people involved. Sometimes new members of another departments needed to participate, or members changed jobs. Some people could get along well with each other, others couldn’t. Some people gave cycling high priority in their job, others did not. This influenced the process and the progress in producing the plan. The members of the Cycle Forum had thought that progress could be made more quickly and the project leader had thought so too. This made the cooperation more difficult than expected. For volunteers it is not easy to be asked to attend few meetings, ending up with over ten meetings in a year during working hours. This is a point to take into account when asking, for instance, for a Cycle Forum to be involved in a new Cycleplan. Secondly there was a need for clear communication. This depended on: - Respect for different view-points - An open mind - And the will to search for new chances instead of obstacles
  5. 5. Velo-city 2007 – Proposal for Presentation Focal Theme: Urban Planning van der Kloof, Angela Country: The Netherlands Gender: Female - Taking into account the different frames of reference in the project group The Cycle Forum was especially keen on getting specific issues into the Cycle-plan. A lot of the infrastructural issues were also mentioned by the civil servants. Still, the promotional aspects and the focus on several specific target-groups was less obvious for a lot of the civil servants, especially those with an engineering background. Although (because?) the Netherlands is a country with a lot of cyclists, the cyclelane-designers do not have a natural feeling for promotional or communicational aspects for cycling. Thanks to the open mind of a few members of the project group, it was possible to produce a more diverse plan. The city of Tilburg has been awarded the 'gold award of excellence' for this broad focus by the ICLEI (Local Governments for Sustainability) conference in Kaapstad, South Africa in February 2006. Results… and a new threat… Since the Cycle Forum played a serious role, next to the local government, there is plenty of room for cooperation in realising all activities planned. Policy-makers and the Cycle Forum now have the joint responsibility of making the numbers of cyclists grow. The ambition to increase the percentage of cyclists in trips of up to 7,5 km from 34% in 2006 to 38% in the next four years, is quite high, particularly in the context of a national trend of declining numbers of cyclists. Also, a new threat has emerged: free public bus transport in the city for everybody aged 55+. This measure was introduced in the summer of 2006 and the first results will soon be monitored. What roles can the Cycle Forum play in the execution of the plan? Since the town-council has approved / ratified the Cycle-plan, there is the possibility for the Cycle Forum to set up their own activities and actions. A few examples will show the commitment of all members of the Cycleforum. A promotional activity with ‘zwarte pieten’ as the local government decided to make guarded parking facilities for free in the inner city.
  6. 6. Velo-city 2007 – Proposal for Presentation Focal Theme: Urban Planning van der Kloof, Angela Country: The Netherlands Gender: Female A cycle tour with new members of the town-council: visiting problematic sites, on-site discussion and personal contact. Attention on unclear signposts on cycle-routes Activities for cycling with children Advising in the process of planning for bicycle parking facilities.
  7. 7. Velo-city 2007 – Proposal for Presentation Focal Theme: Urban Planning van der Kloof, Angela Country: The Netherlands Gender: Female The website with the possibility to report on complaints about bicycle-infrastructure and good ideas. Activities by the individual members, like an on-line debate on bicycle parking in the inner city, by the Innercity Foundation. Activities by the individual members, like the project ‘Cyclefriends’ by the Centre for Immigrant Women ( )