Gazelle Gives Back: Spring 2024 Edition

Investing in a favorable bike future for Santa Cruz County

Dutch Delegation Mixer

How it started >> How it’s going

Back in September of 2022, we hosted a two-day ThinkBike Workshop in partnership with the Dutch Cycling Embassy (DCE) and Ecology Action at our Experience Center in Santa Cruz. It was our first major event at the EC and our first significant (re)investment of funds generated by our ebike demo fees. The workshop brought local public works staff, traffic engineers, transportation planners, and local elected officials together to study with a team of Dutch traffic, engineering, and design experts and learn about what’s possible for bicycle friendly development in Santa Cruz County.

The Dutch Cycling Embassy works with regions around the world to identify, prioritize, and accelerate the adoption of bike inclusive design in their road networks. Their team’s expertise and experience combined with the curiosity and passion of the Santa Cruz County attendees made for an inspiring and impactful session. Many seeds were planted over those two days and it was only a matter of time before they would bear fruit…

Fast forward to the fall of 2023. Ecology Action approaches us with an interesting proposal and request for additional funds: help send a delegation from Santa Cruz County to the Netherlands for a three-day study visit. The visit would take planners, engineers, local policy makers, and elected officials to experience firsthand how bicycle inclusive design works, combining site visits and bike tours interspersed with workshops on multi modal design, road network planning, policy prioritization, and other topics. From other regions who have done this work before (e.g. the City of Austin), the study visit is one of the most impactful and important steps in the process as it gives people the opportunity to see and experience how this type of design works and then derive inspiration for how to apply these principles back where they live and work, ultimately driving new plans and policies for a more bike-favorable future.

Given our mission for the Gazelle Experience Center as well as the broader goals of Gazelle North America, it was easy to say yes and pledge our support. With this green light and our funds secured, plans and itineraries took shape throughout the winter and early spring, and come April, we decided to bring the group together at the EC for a mixer for all the delegates to meet, share goals, and get fired up for the trip. Several of the attendees were also present at the original ThinkBike workshop and were instrumental in championing the continuation of the conversation and actual next steps toward meaningful progress in and for the county, so this was a real full circle moment.

And so, in late April, 30 of the 70-odd individuals who have the power, influence, connections, and agency to drive and make decisions for transportation policy, planning, and investment in Santa Cruz County gathered in our space. Among them were representatives from the City of Capitola, Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley, and Watsonville, UCSC, and Santa Cruz County RTC. After brief introductions to learn names, roles, and hopes/goals of the trip of each attendee, the group got to hear from the City of Austin, People For Bikes, and The Dutch Cycling Embassy about what to expect, what could be gained, and how they can shape the future at home upon their return.

Laura Dierenfield’s presentation about the progress the City of Austin has made in the 12 years since their own ThinkBike Workshop and Dutch study visit was particularly inspiring, with a mind-blowing time lapse showing the growth and expansion of bike lanes and bike corridor networks across the city. She reminded the group about the necessity of focusing on where short trips happen in the highest density, trips that could most feasibly be completed by bike, and investing in improvements in those areas first. The “density lobster” of Austin really helped get that point across!

After the presentations, Team Gazelle gave a crash course on cycling in the Netherlands by sharing a video of a particularly spicy intersection in Amsterdam. New fears unlocked, the group then headed out on Gazelle bikes on a gorgeous Santa Cruz spring day to get comfortable with the idea of riding like the Dutch, in a large group in close proximity. They’re going to do great! 😀

The delegation departs for the Netherlands in June and will travel to and meet with experts in Delft, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Their workshop curriculum topics include: Infrastructure Design, Intersection Design, Car Management, Pop-up to Permanent, School Zones, Network Planning, and Cycle Superhighways. For a 270K inhabitant semi-rural county with real socio-economic disparities across the population, a huge amount of annual visitors, major transportation challenges, and big sustainability goals, we’re in awe of the scale, scope, and ambition of this group. They will tackle our transportation issues head-on and with attention to the unique details and diversity of our county that make it so special and draw people from all over the world to visit. We can’t wait to see and hear how the trip goes, and what this experience catalyzes for Santa Cruz County and the future of everyone who moves through it.

Copyright © 2024 Koninklijke Gazelle

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