It’s winter in Boston – cold, windy, occasional snow. And yet every time I go out I see people bicycling. They weren’t here ten years ago; or even five – certainly not in the winter! It suddenly feels like we’ve reach an inflection point: there are enough people who use cycling as a major form of transportation that it’s become a year-round presence.
The US Census Bureau agrees. Their 2008 American Community Survey found that the share of bicycle commuters nationally increased 43 percent since 2000. In supportive environments it grew even more: the 27 large cities recognized as Bike Friendly by the League of American Bicyclists had increases nearly 60 percent larger than the national average. (http://www.bikeleague.org/resource/reports)
There are lots of reasons for this upsurge but in these fiscally tight times it’s illuminating to particularly analyze the dollars and sense aspects. It turns out that bicycling is a good deal for both the cyclist and the city.Read more
Mayor Menino says he want to make Boston a “world class bicycling city.” And now that he’s been elected to an unprecedented fifth term, he says that he’s ready to take additional risks to bring significant improvement. So what needs to be done to realize the vision?
Here are ten ideas, and one over-arching concept: All these suggested actions will have a much greater chance of success, and have a much greater impact on local culture, if the city frames them as steps towards achieving an ambitious set of high-level goals – and then measures annual progress. Appropriate goals might include increasing the city’s total number of cyclists by 10% per year and cutting the number of traffic-related pedestrian and cyclist injuries in half every two years.Read more
I know that, in general, bicyclists behave no worse than anyone else. I know that, ultimately, the current rage at cyclists who run red lights, weave around lanes, and endanger pedestrians is just a car culture temper tantrum, like an older child outraged at the pushy presence of a newly arrived younger sibling. Still, when even my closest friends – not to mention my wife – start cursing at the arrogant, stupid, endangering nuts on two wheels, I’ve got to acknowledge that something else is also going on.
To be clear where I’m coming from: my first priority is increasing the number of bicyclists.Read more
Most groups that believe they both stand for important values and suffer the scorn of mainstream society, create an in-group culture. Bicyclists are no exception. One component of bike culture is an activist orientation that has placed cyclists in the forefront of grass roots campaigns for road improvement starting with the “Good Roads” movement in the early 1900s. It is possible that just as paved roads ended up setting the stage for an auto-centric culture, today’s push for more bike facilities may lead to the swamping of “bikey” culture by “ordinary” people. But, so what if it does?
As long as America’s transportation infrastructure does little to accommodate the needs of bicyclists, as long as American culture treats cycling like a risky non-standard if not abnormal activity, then most of the people who bicycle will be risk takers — people who enjoy feeling a bit estranged from middle-of-the-road culture. And, like any group that feels both self-righteous and snubbed, and that has sufficient resources to organize themselves, cyclists stick together. It is not surprising that a “bike culture” has emerged. In fact, cyclists relish their outsider status, partly because they believe they represent better values and lifestyle choices than the surrounding SUV-society.Read more
Some bicycle advocacy groups promote the slogan “Same Roads, Same Laws” to support cyclists’ right to use the roadway along with car traffic. I think it’s a bad slogan; at best incomplete, at worst self-defeating. Bikes and cars are radically different types of vehicles, exposing cyclists and drivers to radically different conditions. In addition to the laws that all vehicles should obey, we need special laws and road designs to protect the safety and promote the use of bicycles.Read more
When a law whose purpose is to promote safety has the opposite effect, maybe its time to change the law. Maybe there is something to learn from the fact that so few cyclists stop at red lights when there is no cross traffic.
Anyone who races through an intersection without looking — in any vehicle — is stupid and a danger to both themselves and others. I have no patience for hot-shot cyclists who ignore red lights as if neither the law nor common sense applies to them. But neither do I have any sympathy for car drivers who race into yellow lights or pedestrians who walk out from between parked cars.
However, it seems to be the bad behavior of bicyclists that catches the public’s attention. The Globe recently ran a story about cyclist law-breaking. And I can’t count the number of times that a friend has complained to me about the outrageous way bicylists go flying through red lights. In fact, when I’m driving my car (yes, I own one) I sometimes feel the same way. It’s clear that not only is blindly racing into cross traffic dangerous, it enrages motorists, making it harder to get their support for bike-friendly policies.Read more
A couple of years ago I watched the Tour and got totally excited by the Postal team’s victory. I read the articles about the overweight guy who whipped himself into shape and rode a 24-hour endurance solo, and about the people who raced across the entire United States in record time. They are incredible. They acknowledged the pain and just keep going. They’re obviously driven – maybe by a higher power, maybe by an incredible competitive drive, maybe by some inner demons.
But they’re not me; nor are they like most of the ordinary people who ride bikes. We don’t do heroics. We’re not pro’s; not even semi-pro. Calling us serious amateurs is a compliment.
The pro’s train every day, maintaining speeds over 35 mph for over 100 miles. Lance averaged 15 mph climbing up the 8% grade of L’Alpe d’Huez. I’m proud of myself when I average 15 mph over 20 miles of flat roads when the weather is good. The books all say that you should try for a cadence of 90 to 100 rpm. My legs simply die if I do 80 for more than a few minutes. Because I have trouble bending over, my road bike has hybrid handlebars which means wind resistance gets pretty tough above 22 or 23 mph, even if I’m going down hill.Read more