Fields explores safe cycling infrastructure
PLATTEVILLE, Wis. – Dr. Kristina Fields has always had a passion for cycling, and when she decided to combine this with her background in civil engineering it opened up new opportunities for herself and her students. This past May, Fields, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville, led a short-term study abroad course with 12 students to study cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands.
“The main goal of the program is for students to get a different perspective on transportation,” said Fields. “By going to a place that is so focused on cycling, I think you can really visualize how transportation can be different.”
The program started when Fields went on sabbatical in the fall of 2015 to Zwolle, Netherlands, where she worked with Windesheim University faculty and her colleagues at UW-Platteville to develop the short-term study abroad course. “If we continue to grow and have congestion, we have to come up with other solutions,” said Fields. “If we can think more strategically and sustainably, that might be a good solution.” From these ideas she developed the short-term study abroad course on cycling infrastructure.
The program consisted of 16 days biking the world-famous Netherlands cycling infrastructure. UW-Platteville students worked directly with students from Windesheim University on dissecting cycling infrastructure and exploring the aspects of cycling as an essential part of Dutch culture. Additionally, students in the program worked with six infrastructure planning and design professionals in five large Dutch cities.
While at Windesheim University the students worked with five faculty and 30 of their students in the Mobility Program. This program is unique to Windesheim and according to the course syllabus it focuses on “how and why people transport themselves the way they do, including how to potentially change their behavior about transportation.” The three main projects that Windesheim and UW-Platteville students collaborated on were Sustainable Safety, Sustainable Safety Applied and the Travel Behavior Project. For the Sustainable Safety Applied project, students worked on finding and creating solutions for “troubled spots” for cycling safety in Platteville.
Junior environmental engineering student Alicia Zewicki, from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, went on the trip because she heard about it in one of Fields’ classes. “I learned to have a different perspective on everything, especially infrastructure,” said Zewicki. “Seeing how other people's lives vary from ours is very eye opening, and it is something that everyone should experience if they have the opportunity.”
The infrastructure of transportation in the Netherlands varies significantly from the United States, in that the needs of bicyclists are heavily considered in urban planning. “Since the majority of people there bike everywhere, when designing streets they give bikes priority,” said Zewicki. “For example, many times cars have to go through more intersections than bikes to get from one place to another. Unlike here, where everything revolves around cars.”
Fields’ interest in the program stemmed from her love of cycling combined with her profession. “I think that it’s a great combination of having a passion for something like cycling and a love for your profession, and you combine both of those together,” she said. Fields added that her interest in the topic grew after having kids, and wanting to make the streets friendlier for kids to bike.
“Dr. Fields is very passionate about cycling infrastructure, which influenced me to be excited about it,” said Zewicki. “She took the time and went out of her way to show us as much as possible so we could get the most out of the experience. It really shows that she cares a lot about her students.”
Written by: Ryan Kotajarvi, Student Writer, Communications, 608-342-1194, firstname.lastname@example.org