In 2017, ICMA established the Tranter-Leong Fellowship through a generous donation from ICMA Life Members Revan A. F. Tranter and Eugene Y. Leong. The fellowship provides an opportunity for ICMA members to expand their global horizons, advancing ICMA’s commitment to becoming a truly global organization.

Annapolis, Maryland, city manager, Michael Mallinoff, recently completed a Cycling and Resiliency Study Tour in Netherlands and Belgium, November 11-23, 2023. The video below captures highlights on water management and cycling transportation, followed by a written a Q&A on lessons learned. 

To see a complete tour recap,  View Here



1. What are some lessons learned from this experience?

The many ways history has impacted modes of transit in the cities that we visited. In most instances, cycling was the majority mode of transportation up to the 1930s. Much more than even the current cycle-friendly European cities. With the growth of the vehicle, coupled with WWII, much forced change was experienced. Rotterdam, Netherlands, was bombed and then rebuilt to U.S. auto standards. The Marshall Plan also impacted European city planning to a more American planning form. Since the late 1960s and 70s, planning movements in the Netherlands and Belgium challenged the auto dependent paradigm to provide more safety for children, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Historic cities such as Brugge, Belgium, also invited vehicles into 13-14th century roads that were designed for people; and is now, also from the 70s in a similar movement, restricting vehicles to facilitate a multi-modal approach. Brugge is now 40% cycle transportation.

Analytics were often used to design the appropriate approaches to making cycling safe. We were shown several examples in Brugge where bike lane designs were facilitated around appropriate site lines based on real data and public safety input. I attended the World Cycling Safety conference in Den Hague. Academic research papers were presented on design safety, vehicular safety, and operator safety. A concerted effort is being made to develop real data around integrating cycling into the mainstream modes of transportation, which it is in certain European cities.

There was also a concerted effort to normalize cycling for all uses. In Brugge they created the slogan "the 15-minute city," where you could get anywhere in the city by bike in 15 minutes. In the Netherlands, safety was baked into design, so the parents and riders of all ages felt safe cycling. They even went as far as to not require helmet wearing to show how safe cycling is. As a result, less than 1.5 percent wear helmets. While cycling is fringe in America, it’s normal there.

In sum, a U.S. car-modal approach seemed to dominate post WWII and until the 1970s. Then many communities, both in the Netherlands and Belgium rallied around accidents that killed children and pedestrians to change the narrative to cycles, pedestrian, and mass transit. Back to the future.

2. Will you be able to implement any of these in your community?

It would be nice to think that all the cycling access could be implemented in Annapolis. Annapolis is a mostly historic city with narrow 18-19th century roads in the historic core. Nevertheless, it is definitely an auto center community with limited public transit and a commuter population that is always on the move and in a hurry. Short of instituting cycle-only safe lanes; lights and bollards delineating safe crossing and limiting vehicular access, I am not sure these approaches will succeed here. We are an auto dependent society. Getting to 5 percent cycle use would be nice, 30 percent would be very hard.

Nevertheless, hope springs eternal. We are going to introduce two funding mechanisms in the FY25 budget to facilitate what we are going to call “Connecting Communities.” The goal is to dedicate 1 percent of the hotel motel tax the city receives to annual cycling and pedestrian infrastructure. Additionally, mandating that the annual $2 million repaving program includes trail infrastructure on the repaved roads. It is our goal to then connect to existing city trail networks and into neighboring jurisdictions and the region.

3. What was the overall impact of your experience?

Extremely positive. I do not think the experience could have been any better. Based on the type of activity on bicycles, the weather could have been better. But riding in cool wet weather and seeing how everyone was still cycling certainly reinforced the fact that cycling is the way of life for commuters, families, and running errands. For example, one day we commuted to a cycling safety conference in Den Hague. It was bike rush hour with everyone pedaling along in their work clothes and observing lights and crossing accordingly. I could not have been more impressed and happier with the results.

The ease of the multi-modal interface was almost flawless. Planes to trains, to hotels, to bicycles, and foot. And back again. The worst I experienced was driving to and from Dulles Airport, outside of Washington, D.C. The American transit system is broken.

At the cycling safety conference, we learned about designing cycling infrastructure and related cyclist safety. The study results also reinforced what I already knew about the dangerous impact of SUVs, pickup trucks, and large trucks on cyclist safety. In sum, in accidents with pickups and SUVs, the leading edge of the vehicle goes over the cyclist, rather than the cyclist going over a smaller passenger car. In large trucks, the issue is visibility. The result is serious injury to fatality.

An additional positive impact during the Netherlands segment is that some of the Annapolis City Council, mayor, and other colleagues also joined the tour. This led to a very successful opportunity to bond, team-build, have fun, or call it what you may. I think the shared experience has led to a shared vision of cycling mobility and innovative resiliency. Something I would like to write about in the future.

4. Did you encounter any unanticipated developments or challenges?

None really. Prepared for the weather, so that was fine. The transportation interface was flawless. The Dutch hosts were on time, comprehensive, and very informative. The Brugge hosts were also fantastic. In fact, Brugge exceeded expectations as the information was very useful for a colonial-era city like Annapolis. I would say on point.

5. What did you learn about the structure of local government in the location of your trip?

I learned a bit about the Netherlands central government and the relationship between various regional and local water authorities. The structure in both Belgium and the Netherlands started in the European Union, which has a big and positive impact on resiliency and cycling issues. They all seem to get it. In Belgium, it was interesting to meet the Flemish regional government representative. Perhaps it is to say the relationship is stronger with their Dutch neighbors to the north rather than with the French-speaking neighbors in their own country. There seem to be some pronounced historical differences.

The Brugge government seemed very similar to my own. I was able to briefly meet Colin Beheydt, the city manager, as he was preparing for a council meeting, something I know well. The staff we met with were prepared, talented, and very informative. I also enjoyed getting to know the advocacy groups like the Dutch Cycling Union. They were the catalyst behind the Netherlands tour and were very dedicated to the cycling cause. We have some of that here with groups like Cycle Maryland, but not nearly as much to go with. Baby steps in the states. As they said, cycling is more fringe here, it was normal there!

6. Do you have any future plans to continue the relationships you have built during this project?

Absolutely and at all levels. I hope to make it back to Brugge for the Conference. I also have hopes to invite the Dutch Cycling Embassy and the Brugge mobility coordinator to a conference in D.C. early next year. I very much want, need, and look forward to continuing relationships. Networking is something I truly value, and frankly, I learn so much and really enjoy meeting people from different cultures. It was heartwarming.

Available Opportunities

Want to participate in a global knowledge exchange opportunity like this one? Applications for the first 2024 cycle are open from January 22 through February 22. The ICMA International Committee administers these awards and plans to announce the selected recipients in April 2024.The Tranter-Leong Fellowship is a $5,000 award, and the John Garvey Scholarship provides $3,500 in support. Learn more about these opportunities and apply at Tranter-Leong Fellowship and John Garvey Scholarship.

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