The Christian Science Monitor has a good article about the robust growth in bicycle use in America that's worth the time to read. Between 2000 and 2011, bike commuting grew 47 percent nationwide. Portland, Ore., lead the pack of American cities with a 250 percent growth over that period and numbers are up in San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C.
While America, where just 1 percent of people use their bikes for all trips, still lags far behind countries like the Netherlands (26 percent using their bikes for all trips), Germany (10 percent), and Denmark (19 percent), the growth that we are seeing here is great news. Integrating bicycles into the American transportation grid is not going to be easy. We have designed our roads, towns and cities around the car for more than a century and it won't be an easy thing to unravel. Every retrofitted bike lane and new bicycle parking area has the potential to cause conflict with car owners, business owners and local residents. We need as many of those potential stakeholders to be bike riders if we are to have any hope of winning the battle for safe and sane bicycle infrastructure.
There is a beautiful positive feedback loop built into the growth of bike riders — as more bicyclists take to the roads, more investment is made building safe bike lanes, bicycle-friendly traffic lights and even whole-city bike sharing networks (see New York City's Citibikes
). Those investments will draw more people out of their cars and onto their bikes, which will further drive investments. Rinse and repeat until we eventually find a balance between the number of bike riders and their infrastructure needs. We'll use less fuel as a society, be in better shape, and far fewer of us will die in car accidents.
Win win win.
One bone that I would pick with the authors of the Christian Science Monitor article is the absence of any kind of mention of electric bikes. E-bikes like those sold by Pedego
and Currie Tech
are going to bring a huge class of people over to bike riding who wouldn't otherwise be able to join. Electric bikes mean that older riders and those with lower fitness levels can get out and experience the joys of riding and should provide a sizable boost to the overall growth of bicycle use in America. They should have been mentioned.
Would you bike to read more bicycle stories? Check out these posts here on MNN: