Del. Ken Plum: On Traveling Abroad

by Del. Ken Plum July 23, 2015 at 2:45 pm 39 Comments

Del. Ken Plum/File photoWhile I am far from a world traveler, I find the trips I take to other countries to be relaxing, fun and educational. I agree with those who stress the value of traveling abroad to a complete education. An increasing number of colleges and universities have made study in other countries available and sometimes required of their students.

I seem to be happiest when I am learning, and a couple of weeks immersed in another land and culture brings new discoveries, challenges to my own paradigms, and the excitement of seeing and doing.

The recent vacation Jane and I took to the Netherlands, Belgium, and the Mosel Valley in Germany was no exception. While it can be questionable to draw too many conclusions after being in a place for only hours or days, curiosity can be aroused that can be verified with some research when you get home.

I always pay close attention to how other countries deal with their transportation needs. Never have I seen as many bicycles as there are in Amsterdam. Multiple levels of covered parking for bicycles at the airport and train station accommodate thousands of bicycles. Most every lamp post, park bench, and railing had bicycles chained to it.

Jane and Ken Plum in Belgium/Ken PlumChecking on my observations when I returned home I found that Amsterdam and other Dutch cities are the most bicycle-friendly in the world. There are more than 22,000 miles of bicycle lanes in the Netherlands with more than a quarter of all trips made by bicycle. That number is 38 percent in Amsterdam, a city of about a million people, and in the university city of Groningen 59 percent of all trips are by bicycle.

A typical street scape in Amsterdam would include a narrow lane for automobiles, bicycle lanes in both directions, trolley rails, and a sidewalk for pedestrians. Men and women dressed for work were among those on bicycles as were many seniors. Spending a couple of days there makes it obvious why it is considered one of the best cities in the world in which to live.

Brussels is likewise a beautiful city to visit, but I think it is especially noteworthy as the center for the cooperative efforts that are going on in Europe with the European Union and the European Parliament. At a time when there is so much strife among countries, it is reassuring to see the progress being made in mutual support and cooperation in Europe even if it is slow given the strong sense of nationalism and history that exists among the countries.

Of course I pay attention to things that relate to issues I deal with as a delegate, but do not let me mislead you about our vacations. I also give equal or more time to enjoying the flowers and foliage of the region, the local foods, and the people we meet. That’s what is great about traveling abroad: you learn a lot while you are relaxing and having a good time.

Ken Plum represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. His opinion does not represent Reston Now.

  • CE

    Any info on if they have a bike theft problem like we do here in Reston? If not maybe we can have them give us some insight.


    Unreal. Reads like a fourth grader’s “what I did over summer vacation” report.

    • Emmanuel Goldstein

      It’s like “A Christmas Story” where the kid is trying to get his little red B-B gun.

    • Ming the Merciless

      “But he is our Reston elected official, so it is our obligation to give him a microphone so he can blather on about nothing,” she explained.

      • Emmanuel Goldstein

        “And when he runs unopposed, we’ll still give him a pulpit for fundrasing”


          I should run against him, or better yet, I should take Hudgins job from her.

          • Emmanuel Goldstein

            You run, you’ve got at least 1 vote here


            And Emmanuel, I will tell you this. My stories about my travels in Amsterdam are not boring.

          • Greg

            The stories, alone, get my vote!

      • Greg

        Dare I ask who “she” is?

        • Ming the Merciless

          She Who Arbitrarily Deletes Comments.

          • Sheik Yerbouti

            Arbitrary is correct, Ken visited some European countries facing a similar problem and I asked if he noticed any European solutions that might help this country. (ie: Hungary is building a wall) His “fantastic” discovery about bikes being used as a way to ease congestion has been known for decades, you just need to provide adequate money to build and upkeep bike paths and bike lanes.

          • Greg

            Surely you’ve noticed the highly congested bike lanes along Soapstone and Lawyers. Fully of bikes, especially at night, when there’s no light to bother one’s eyes. Why, in fact, we just yesterday noticed bike lanes in (the new) Tysons, on a beautiful day with low humidity. NOT ONE SINGLE BIKE on ANY of the well-maintained, beautifully illustrated bike lanes. Imagine that, while praying it doesn’t collapse as one drives over the crumbling Leesburg Pike / toll road bridge and thereafter tries to maneuver among the unpainted potholed lanes along the Pike toward ever-so-lovely Reston.

    • Greg

      He’s a retiree of the county school system, no? The one that’s alleged to be so spectacular and so good and so broke!

  • MJay

    I thought the same exact thing… “What I did on summer vacation, by Kenny Plum. I went to Europe. It was very, very, very, very fun. They had lots of bikes. It was a lot like America, but better. I liked my trip to Europe. The end. Kenny”

    • Greg

      Just proves, once again, how useless and full of himself, he is.

      • BossHogg

        So nice that he has a forum to express this tripe week in and week out.

  • Chuck Morningwood

    I too have been to The Netherlands, mostly in The Hague. The parking lot at the train station has as much space put aside for bikes as it does for cars.

    With that said, it’s far easier to get around by bike in The Netherlands than it is in No Va. While a bike friendly infrastructure is helpful, the fact that The Netherlands is FLAT is certainly very important. Of course, we can’t do much about our terrain deficits, but it certainly is going to be a significant obstacle to getting higher bike rates in our ‘burbs.

    One other thing to keep in mind is that the Dutch are a strapping population. There’s a reason why the Dutch are such strong competitors in any of the winter sports that require almost pure brawn.

    • Greg

      The Dutch also manage water very well, The not-yet-year-old Wiehle metro area (all of which is above ground, no?) was flooded just a few weeks ago. And, of course, the nearby park and ride lot has flooded several times.

  • Emmanuel Goldstein

    If you would like to better use the public transit system, I propose you take the green line to Anacostia, walk a few blocks in and then only rely on the bus system to get you back home.

    If you don’t get stabbed (http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/victim-in-metro-slaying-stabbed-repeatedly-during-robbery-on-train/2015/07/07/8dd09132-249b-11e5-b72c-2b7d516e1e0e_story.html) OR mugged (https://www.joshdoesstats.com/blog/2014/06/30/exploring-2013-dc-crime-data-ward)

    Come back and we can have a nice discussion.

    However, I’m sure you’ll just take the silver line one stop and rant and rave about how great it is and how we don’t need cars ever!

  • Sheik Yerbouti

    Ken, too bad you didn’t visit Hungary, you might of seen the wall they are building to keep illegal immigrants out. Did you ask the Dutch or Germans on their opinion on illegal immigration?

  • meh

    Amsterdam loves Sex and Drugs. another reason why it is so popular. Maybe Reston should look it to that as well.

    • Greg

      Shadowood is infested with drugs.

  • Emmanuel Goldstein

    How many people there spoke the primary language? Did the government provide every form in Spanish? If you called a front-desk or talked to someone, did every option have “For Spanish press 1…”? How many illegal aliens are running around committing felonies like in San Francisco? Is it a Sanctuary country?

  • Ming the Merciless

    I always pay close attention to how other countries deal with their transportation needs.

    Because small countries in Europe are just like the USA and therefore their solutions are sure to be precisely applicable here.

    • Greg

      Too bad he didn’t listen to the predictors, and doesn’t pay attention to the mess he created at the Wiehle metro.

  • shagga

    Yup, euros love their bikes.

  • Mike M

    I’ve said it here before. Liberals all assume Europe is the model for perfect living, and these are those who have never lived or worked there. But they did go on vacation. It’s kind of like saying you are prepared to do surgery because you stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

    So, why do Libs assume that Europe is superior? I think it’s partly because they can only see flaws at home. Because they take much for granted. Because, like adolescents they have to be angry at their parents yet expect them to provide everything, just like mommy and daddy did. They extend their adolescence, then they sub their country for their mommy and daddy as they get older.

    So, are more Americans moving to Europe, or more Europeans moving to the states? Hmmmn. But then, it’s not about facts at all.

  • cRAzy

    The Netherlands also has legalized prostitution, legal drug sales, and legal euthanasia. Are you ready to support that too, Ken???

    • Emmanuel Goldstein

      Well the last one should be up for debate. When a family pet is suffering we do the humane thing. When Grandma is suffering, we throw her in the hospital and spend a ton of money to extend her life by 6 months all the while having her poop in a bag and hopped up on drugs

      • Cluster Tycoon

        80% of health care is spent on seniors. Roughly 40% of the National budget goes to health care with the other 40% going to defense. I propose we spend more on education, just by reading the.comment section of this board you would think that most of us have barely broken grade 4 levels but critical thinking skills far exceed political scientist grade. So yes, education and apologies to those who have, for poor grammar and self control.

        • Emmanuel Goldstein

          Are you sure it’s 80%? I thought the number had shifted towards the obese as those numbers have sharply risen over the last decade? Nevertheless, I concur that it’s a large portion of health care.

          The unfortunate circumstances in regards to education is that you have to want to be educated. When the home life for so many is a single parent household where the mom is working 12 hour days and doesn’t have time to cook dinner let alone go over homework it’s no wonder grades suffer.

  • Cluster Tycoon

    Ken, thanks for sharing details of your exciting trip. You motivated me to plan and take a trip of my own, to study and enjoy the wonderful landscapes of the places where my ancestors had lived. Steeped in tradition, strict education standards and sometimes rigid beliefs many of my ancestors struggled and hungered for more freedom which some were determined to find in the new world. Many of those met that opportunity head on but we’re confronted with bigger issues – nature itself. For many of the pioneers and settlers the land presented many challenges and incomes and living standards for many were at best meager. The result is reflected in today’s American: pragmatist, survivalist,, opportunist, individualist as well as freedom fighter and oppressor. What had many hoped to become a land of opportunity has in many ways created a system of wealth creation that no longer allows the individual to exercise one of their basic rights, the pursuit of happiness. I am relying on people like you, Ken, to ensure that we can continue to enjoy this basic right and that we can evolve together in this common pursuit. I firmly believe you can continue on your path to secure this basic right, in our national interest. Thanks,

    • Mike M

      ” . . . a system of wealth creation that no longer allows the individual to exercise one of their basic rights, the pursuit of happiness.”

      Couple of things, Cluster. . .
      1) What sort of happiness were you pursuing that you cannot pursue?
      2) We are not worthy of you. Let us help you pack.
      3) So, how’s ole Kenny doing for ya? What, exactly has he ever done for you?

      • CLUADMIN

        Dear Mr M.

        Although Mr Tycoon is seriously considering to run for head of the peanut gallery we wish to notify you that he is.busy attending other highly prioritized issues. In the meantime please leave your full name, address and email so we can contact you should further response become necessary.

        Thank you for your understanding and have a.nice day.

        On behalf of Cluster Tycoon,

  • Rational Reston

    Delegate Plum went to the Netherlands, did he have a go at any windmills? Or does he keep his Quixotic quests to Richmond?

  • 30yearsinreston

    Its too bad he didn’t stay over there
    But oh wait, all the places reserved for politicians on the taxpayer funded gravy train are already taken


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