The league also offers medals to cities that are making strides in encouraging bike riding. This spring they added 13 to their rolls. Philadelphia, for example, has a bronze award for all the improvements on their streets network. “They’ve hired a bike coordinator for the city, Organization Bike Philly is growing, and they even have unique urban mountain biking opportunities,” Cahill said.
“Another new one is Columbus, Ohio,” she said, “also a bronze. They have a new bicycle master plan that if fully implemented they will be on track to become one of the better urban trails in the country.
Which cities are at the top of the heap? It’s Portland, Ore.; Boulder, Colo. and Davis, Calif. They’ve all been platinum-level cities for years. Why? (Get ready to turn green with envy.):
Portland: 270 miles of bike-friendly road/paths; 40 miles of trails; city-mandated bike parking, lots of educational programs in schools and just tons of bike riders (the city estimates that 16 percent of Portlanders ride bikes for transportation).
Boulder, Colo.: An unparalleled bike lane system, with 95 percent of arterials having bike lanes or trails; the city devoted $3.1 million (15 percent of their total transportation budget) in 2004 to bike transportation; in 2003 – and these numbers have certainly grown — 21 percent of all commuter trips were on bikes, and 14 percent of all transportation trips were on bikes. As a result, auto travel growth has virtually stopped in Boulder.
Davis, Calif.: This city has no school buses, kids only ride bikes or walk to school. The city logo has a bike on it, there are bike lanes on 95 percent of Davis’ arterial and collector roads (they started this in the 1960s!); in the last decade the city has spent more than $14 million on bike projects. At UC-Davis no cars can move on campus during class changes to keep them away from the cyclists and their annual city bike map (since the ’70s) has a press run of up to 40,000. This sums it up: There are more bikes in Davis than cars.
Interest is growing around the country, too. ”Many baby boomers who have been runners or other recreational athletes are finding their joints and bones can’t deal with that pounding. But biking is a good fit,” Dorn said. The nation’s general lack of good health – obesity, diabetes, heart disease – is a good incentive to bike. It can help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign energy sources, and it’s good for the environment.
The biggest impediment to cycling for transportation is infrastructure that isn’t made for bicycles, or pedestrians.
“As a culture, as a society, we’ve got to start looking at how we provide mobility to our people. . . . At the federal, state and local level bicycling is starting to be more seriously considered, as is walking,” Dorn said. The push is for the “complete street” – designing public streets to serve all users, not just for car traffic.
And remember, if your friends think the idea of riding a bike to work is eccentric, in many other parts of the world it’s routine. Visit Holland or Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Japan or India – you’ll see doctors and lawyers and priests on bikes.
“I’m hoping that it could happen here as well,” Dorn said.
Photos: From top - Portland, Ore. cyclists from League of American Cyclists; second photo of Paul Dorn; third photo of students cycling on U.C.-Davis campus from League of American Cyclists; fourth photo of Paul Dorn using mass transit in combination with cycling for transportation; final photo of Austin, Texas police officers on bike patrol from League of American Bicyclists.
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