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Sports Backers Blog

Velo-City Global Cycling Summit Journal: Day 1 & 2

Max Hepp-Buchanan, Director of Bike Walk RVA for Sports Backers, is attending the annual Velo-City Global Cycling Summit, this year in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. While there, he is leading a session alongside Heather Barrar of Chesterfield County to bring a story of advocacy and community engagement in Chesterfield County to a global audience. He’ll be sharing his thoughts, photos, and videos during the 10-day trip. Check out Day 3-5 here.


Day One and Two, June 9-10, 2017

After leaving Richmond at 12:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 8, Heather and I arrived in Amsterdam on Friday, June 9 at 6:00 a.m. their time. I didn’t sleep on the plane and saw the shortest night I have ever experienced due to crossing time zones during the flight. The college kids in front of us reminded me of a group of friends from a bad summer vacation gross-out comedy. They were having a good old time, but at least one of them has probably been arrested in Amsterdam by now.

Heather and I have the honor of spending 10 days in the Netherlands, presenting at and attending Velo-City, the Global Cycling Summit in Nijmegen. Not only that, but we were asked to present at this conference to bring a story of advocacy and community engagement in Chesterfield County to a global audience. It’s very flattering and we are quite honored to be here.  Nijmegen is the oldest city in the Netherlands and has a rich Roman history. It is a small town compared to Amsterdam. Our hotel is just above the train station, and there is a great view of the massive bike parking deck from my window.

Day One was largely spent getting over jet lag. A four-hour nap followed by an early bedtime did the trick and I was easily able to wake at 5:30 a.m. on Day Two to do my second Marathon Training Team run of the season. The streets were empty at that time of day, save for the thousands and thousands of bikes locked up in front of houses and businesses while their owners slept. As I ran, I became increasingly saddened about the death of a man out for a run in the Fan on Friday morning in Richmond, something I had just learned about. I did not take for granted that even if there had been traffic in Nijmegen that morning, there was little to no risk of me dying or getting hurt by someone driving a car. The streets are just set up in a completely different way.

Amsterdam CycleSpaceAfter my run, I boarded a train and headed straight back to Amsterdam for an all-day advocacy workshop with attendees from France, Australia, India, Spain, Russia, Istanbul, Mexico, Brazil, and many other countries. I was one of two Americans there – the other was from New Haven, Connecticut. Most of the workshop took place in the glass building headquarters of CycleSpace, an Amsterdam-based advocacy group behind the worldwide Bicycle Mayors movement.

We did take a short bike tour of the Zuid (South) district of Amsterdam, which is nothing like the canal-crossed, bricked-street district of Amsterdam Central. It was much more like a typical business district, with high-rises and larger, faster streets. And yet the protected, separated bike paths were still prevalent, and needed. The folks at CycleSpace explained that it is much more worthwhile to take visitors to Amsterdam Zuid because it draws similarities with business districts in other cities (something you don’t get in Amsterdam Central), while also showing off the benefits of separated bicycle infrastructure. I did see something today that I had never seen before: a futuristic underground bike parking deck for 3,000 bikes that also featured a bike escalator-type of thing. Check out the video:

I asked what the bike escalator was called and they looked at me like I was crazy because it’s so normal nobody ever bothered to give it a special name. Sigh.

I am now on the 90-minute train back to Nijmegen where I will sleep hard before Heather and I venture out to The Hague tomorrow.

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  • Love the blogs Max, thank you for taking the time to write! Say hello to Heather and best of luck on your trip!

  • Lisa Sheffield

    Oh what a wonderful sight those bike parking lots are! I know that all the brilliant minds in the American bike scene will eventually find a way to bring more of that to our cities! I may not see it, but hopefully my grandchildren will!

    Curious to know how many of of shape people you’re seeing while walking around (I’m sure everyone at the conference is fit – that bike thing and all).

    Enjoy the conference and the Netherlands!