The single most important issue facing cyclists today is the absence of proper infrastructure to allow cycling to prosper, as it should, as it must, in a civilized community. If we accept as a general proposition that our societies would be healthier if they had fewer cars and more cyclists, then it follows we need to dedicate our resources to infrastructure, change and development.
Accidents do not happen because cyclists were not wearing a helmet. Accidents happen because there is an unacceptable proximity between automobiles and cyclists. Until this changes, and our particularly North American consciousness evolves so that our minds can better anticipate the presence of a cyclist on a roadway, we will continue to see an unacceptably high level of cycling casualties.
We need to embrace physically separated bike lanes designated bikeways with traffic diversion, bike paths not shared with pedestrians and reduced speed limits on residential streets. These are but a few examples of progress achieved in jurisdictions with much lower rates of cycling casualties and fatalities
Above are few paragraphs from bike injury lawyer David Hay’s recent op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, 'The great debate over bike helmet laws'. There’s been quite a controversy stirred up over recent months here following news from that Vancouver will be joining more than 165 cities worldwide in getting a bike sharing system in 2013. The concern on the part of a lot of people here is that we have a provincial mandatory bike helmet law and in the two cities with bike shares and mandatory helmet use, Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia, the systems have not been very successful. Mexico City had a mandatory helmet law, but provided an exemption after the first year of their bike share system. There have been some workarounds proposed here in Vancouver, but nothing that seems like a sure thing at this point. That said, I think Hay makes a good point that the critical factors for improving safety for cyclists and making cycling a more mainstream way to get around is through better infrastructure and a change in thinking on part of drivers and cyclists alike.
(Photo source: Open File)
Even if you will never ride a bike in your life, you still see benefits from increased levels of biking. More bicyclists mean less congestion in the streets and less need for expensive road projects that divert government money from other important problems. Off-road paths, bike lanes, sidwalks and other bike and ped improvements cost a fraction of what it takes to widen streets and highways. It’s proven that bicycling and walking increases people’s health and reduces obesity, which will translate into huge cost savings for government and a boost for our economy.
Policies that are good for bicyclists actually benefit everyone on the streets. Good conditions for bicycling also create good conditions for pedestrians. And what makes the streets safer for bikes, also makes them safer for motorists.
Higher gas prices (which have topped four bucks for the third time in four years) means more Americans are looking for other ways to get around. Bikes offer people more choices in transportation. This is especially true for people whose communities are not well served by mass transportation or where distances are too far to walk to work or shopping.
A quote from the Shareable article, 'The Boom in Cycling Benefits Everyone, Not Just Bicyclists'
(Photo credit: Shareable)
In general, a perfect climate or geography does not always mean an increase in cycling. San Luis Obispo, for example, has very steep hills along main corridors. Copenhagen and Amsterdam, are very cold. All of these locations, however, have a high cycling mode share. Some important factors for cyclists, beyond infrastructure, are the presence of a supportive bike culture and bike education. Even in a city like Davis, which is flat, has a good climate, and has many biking facilities, bike mode share went down for a number of years until a concerted bike campaign effort was put into place.
I was also surprised to find—because it often seems dangerous—that people generally prefer to use bike lanes on major roads. People are also willing to walk and bike longer than planners generally assume. While aesthetics along a route sometimes get more focus from planners, they are actually secondary considerations for everyday users.
These findings show that in places of high biking and walking mode share, people use these modes just as they would use cars in a high car mode share area. Distance to key destinations, connection and lack of barriers matter the most for everyday users. These are the main issues planners need to address to increase biking and walking.
A few paragraphs from the CityFix article, 'User Preference Key to Implementing Sustainable Transportation', highlighting some important lessons for improving the walkability and bikeability of cities. The article profiles a new report, 'Integration of Biking and Walking Infrastructure into Urban Communities', which “highlights best practices and identifies program characteristics associated with high levels of non-motorized travel.” You can check out the rest of the article here.
(Photo credit: TheCityFix)
The advent of bike lanes in some American cities may seem like a big step, but merely marking a strip of the road for recreational cycling spectacularly misses the point. In Amsterdam, nearly everyone cycles, and cars, bikes and trams coexist in a complex flow, with dedicated bicycle lanes, traffic lights and parking garages. But this is thanks to a different way of thinking about transportation.
To give a small but telling example, pointed out to me by my friend Ruth Oldenziel, an expert on the history of technology at Eindhoven University, Dutch drivers are taught that when you are about to get out of the car, you reach for the door handle with your right hand — bringing your arm across your body to the door. This forces a driver to swivel shoulders and head, so that before opening the door you can see if there is a bike coming from behind. Likewise, every Dutch child has to pass a bicycle safety exam at school. The coexistence of different modes of travel is hard-wired into the culture.
This in turn relates to lots of other things — such as bread. How? Cyclists can’t carry six bags of groceries; bulk buying is almost nonexistent. Instead of shopping for a week, people stop at the market daily. So the need for processed loaves that will last for days is gone. A result: good bread.
There are also in the United States certain perceptions associated with both cycling and public transportation that are not the case here. In Holland, public buses aren’t considered last-resort forms of transportation. And cycling isn’t seen as eco-friendly exercise; it’s a way to get around. C.E.O.’s cycle to work, and kids cycle to school.
A quote from the New York Times article, 'The Dutch Way - Bicycles and Fresh Bread', which highlights the cycling culture in the Netherlands in search of lessons for building more robust cycling cultures in North American cities and towns.
(Photo credit: Amsterdamize)