The first Planning the Cycling City, an English-language summer school at the University of Amsterdam was last year, and the second one will be staged in June/July 2016. The summer school costs €1600 with a housing fee of €525. The closing date for applications is March 1st.
The course lasts three weeks and was created to cater to the booming academic interest in cycling. The summer school was designed for Master’s, PhD and graduate students, and the first event attracted students from 16 countries. The youngest was 22, the oldest 75. Half of the students were women.
Led by "cycling professor" Marco te Brömmelstroet of the Urban Cycling Institute the summer school explored city cycling from the Dutch perspective, focussing on history, policy, infrastructure, planning, and culture. The course, staged by the Center for Urban Studies of the University of Amsterdam, included seminars, guest speakers, and excursions. Guest speakers included specialist academics and professionals working in local, regional, and national organisations, as well as advocacy groups such as America’s People for Bikes.
The idea for the summer school was suggested by Meredith Glaser, the Amsterdam-based officer for Denmark’s Copenhagenize cycle-infrastructure consultancy.
While engineering provisions for cycling played a key role at the summer school, Brömmelstroet stressed that hard infrastructure should not be treated as the only measure that a cycling city requires. He told students that he wanted to dispel many of the “tropes” that have developed about the high modal share for cycling in the Netherlands. For a start, the average modal share of 25 percent – while stellar in international terms – has remained static since 1980.
He also revealed that a study shows that the fastest growing mode of transport in Amsterdam – starting from a low base, mind – is not the bicycle but the moped.
“The build-it-and-they-will-come crowd ought to realise there is no silver bullet to increase cycling’s modal share," said Brömmelstroet. "We need to study why cycling is declining in some districts of Amsterdam, and has been declining for some time, even though the infrastructure there [for cycling] is perfect.”
Students on the first course included a retired urban planning professor from Davis, California; an Australian anthropologist studying the cycling cultures of Perth; a Japanese Geographic Information Systems expert; and a Canadian doing a PhD on cycle commuting in Moscow. From the UK there was Mark Ames of the ibikelondon blog; Zsolt Schuller, Exeter’s former cycling officer; and Paul Robison, who leads the Bikeability cycle training programme.
Brömmelstroet hoped that those attending the first summer school will continue to work on cycling studies: “With more studies and more datasets we can improve things for cycling. In the Netherlands cycling isn’t seen as a subject worthy of study, it’s so normal here. But if cycling is to get into national and city plans there needs to be more academic input, and the same is true internationally.”
He added: “It is great to have so many students here, with such a diversity on all kinds of levels. Never before have I worked with a group of people that are already at such a high level [of understanding] and are so eager to soak up all the knowledge and experience that is presented to them.”