From apartment buildings with one-bike-per-bedroom to somewhat fantastical floating bike paths, the profile of cycling in Britain's capital city has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. Statistics suggest that this growth is much more than just a temporary trend. In fact, Cleantechnica reports on figures from Transport for London that suggest the number of drivers has halved since the year 2000, while the number of cyclists has tripled.
If true, this is a huge shift in how Londoners get around. It's all the more remarkable because London has not made the kinds of investments in infrastructure seen in true cycling cities like Amsterdam or Copenhagen.
That said, things may be beginning to change.
London Mayor Boris Johnson has been a prominent advocate for cycling, and all candidates in the next mayoral race are paying lip service to the need to fight climate change and cut air pollution. With ambitious plans underway like north-south and east-west bike superhighways that will cut through the city, it will be fascinating to see if this is just the beginning.
It's worth noting, for example, that Amsterdam wasn't always a cyclist's mecca. And yet a virtual (ahem) cycle of citizen-cyclists, forward-thinking planners and politicians who recognized that cyclists vote too has turned the Dutch city into a place where bikes dominate over cars. Is it possible that as London continues to battle smog, and as cities start to make good on their climate commitments, that London's growing bicycle constituency will start to make its voice heard?
Similar shifts may be happening elsewhere.
When I first moved to the States, for example, I was struck by how few people viewed cycling as a form of transportation here in North Carolina. It was a sport or a hobby for the weekends, not a serious way to get around town. And yet now, not 10 years later, I see cyclists everywhere with cargo bikes, trailers and pretty-looking Dutch town bikes wearing anything but the Lycra that used to be their calling card. In fact, bike commuting has grown by over 50 percent in the last decade in the United States.
We already knew that infrastructural investments like secure bike parking can encourage more people to ride. Now that more of us are already riding, maybe we'll start to see these things actually getting built.
I have a feeling that our cities will look very different a decade or two from now.