In the last five years, China has built 20,000 miles of expressways, finishing the construction of 12 national highways a whopping 13 years ahead of schedule and at a pace four times faster than the United States built its interstate highway system. Over the last decade, Shanghai alone has built some 1,500 miles of road, the equivalent of three Manhattans. China’s urban population is projected to grow by 350 million people by 2020, effectively adding today’s entire U.S. population to its cities in less than a decade. China has already passed the United States as the world’s largest car market, and by 2025, the country will need to pave up to an estimated 5 billion square meters of road just to keep moving.
China’s love affair with the car has blossomed into a torrid romance. In April, nearly a million people poured into the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition to coo over the latest Audis, BMWs, and Toyotas. But China is in danger of making the same mistakes the United States made on its way to superpower status — mistakes that have left Americans reliant on foreign oil from unstable parts of the world, staggering under the cost of unhealthy patterns of living, and struggling to overcome the urban legacy of decades of inner-city decay.
The choices China makes in the years ahead will have an immense impact not only on the long-term viability, livability, and energy efficiency of its cities, but also on the health of the entire planet. Unfortunately, much of what China is building is based on outdated Western planning ideas that put its cars at the center of urban life, rather than its people. And the bill will be paid in the form of larger waistlines, reduced quality of life, and choking pollution and congestion."
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"