Treehugger.com thinks that the vastly expanded bike highways in Copenhagen is a huge deal. As a matter of fact, they rank it in the Top Ten in terms of stuff they think is amazingly important in terms of transportation things for 2009.
I love the folks that bike in Copenhagen. They even have a site there that celebrates the women who ride in dressy clothing. No spandex or helmets in Copenhagen! And given that 20 years ago, Copenhagen was as crowded, auto-dependent, and unpleasant as any other European capital, the change that hath been wrot by the movement to take back the streets from cars has been nothing short of astonishing. Except for one little thing: The streets of Copenhagen were always filled with people riding and using bikes. If you look at photos and film from the 50s and 60s, there are a LOT of people on bikes.
All the government of Copenhagen did was make it a lot more unpleasant and inconvenient for people to drive cars and a lot more pleasant and convenient for people to commute and park their bikes. Not such an easy thing in the United States, where motorists, city and highway planners, and most people see the roads and streets as having been put there for the use of motor vehicles. Not pedestrians and certainly not people on bikes.
Which is why I think that if Treehugger were really going to throw a party, they would throw some confetti on the United States. We’re making major strides in terms of people giving up the car and riding bikes to work. You need proof?
“According to the US Census Bureau’s 2008 American Community Survey (ACS), released on September 22, 2009, 0.55 percent of Americans use a bicycle as the primary means of getting to work. This is up 14 percent since 2007, 36 percent from the first ACS in 2005, and 43 percent since the 2000 Census.” ACS Commuting Trends
In general, communities that have shown traditionally high levels of bike commuting (such as Portland, Oregon) continue to grow; the big surprises are in areas where bike commuting has not been very popular, such as Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio.
In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts have resulted in an increase to 200 miles of ‘car-free’ lanes since 2005. New York Magazine (that hot-bed of bicycling media), devoted an “Everything Guide” in early October of this year, with 5 articles, covering everything from what to wear, to how to negotiate storing your bike at work. Everything Guide – Bike Commute
The mayor of Boston has been pushing for the city to become bike friendly for several years. In August, it was announced that the city had made arrangements to have the BIXI public bike system arrange a program for Boston.BIXI Comes to Boston
Emory University in Atlanta has set up a biking program for the campus, even arranging with bike manufacturer Fuji to produce a specially built Emory blue bike fitting out with 21 gears to handle to hilly terrain on the campus. This is in a city where the average commuter wastes 57 hours in traffic a year. That puts metro Atlanta at the 3rd worst in the nation, after Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Atlanta Traffic Rank
And, on a local level, I used my maintenance guys (who the DH and I took a ‘beginners’ bike maintenance’ course from last year) down at our local bike shop to stick their fingers in the wind and give their assessment of the bike commuting scene where I live, in frosty, un-bikefriendly Upstate New York. They told me that not only have they seen more people who are coming in for tune-ups to put their bikes back on the road over the past year, but they are also seeing bikes that are having big miles put on them in sand and salt and need major cleaning (which means that more people are commuting in the winter months – this would be heresy several years ago).
During the period of high gas prices, they expected to see people needing their services, but even with the reduction in gas prices that have taken place more recently, they are busier than ever.
So, my wish for 2010? More people on bikes on more roads in more places in the United States. OK, we’re not as cool as the people in Copenhagen, and we’ve got a lot farther to go in terms of bike commuting.
But we’re getting there..we’re getting there.
(Photo courtesy of Forbescreative)