Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bikes will reshape American cities

Hundreds of kids bike to school in Medina for Bike to School Challenge
Pedaling Revolution author Jeff Mapes is seeing firsthand how cycling has shaped his hometown of Portland, Oregon. The 58-year-old journalist and late comer to biking shared some insights last Friday at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
“In Holland, they don’t have school buses,” he said, because 27% of all trips are made on a bike. (It's 40% in their major city of Amsterdam).
Imagine how that would shape cities (and school kids) in the U.S.? What if we could use funds meant for buses instead to purchase fresh, local food for school cafeterias?
“Fifteen to twenty thousand lives could be saved in the U.S. with the same traffic safety laws they have in Europe,” he added. Imagine how many other lives are impacted by those traffic deaths? Bike fatalities actually decrease as the number of cyclists on the road increase, he said.
What momentum cities had for bike and pedestrian improvements came when Congress in 1991 approved ISTEA, Mapes said. “Bike trips more than doubled.” Contrast that with the transportation bill in Congress today which strips out funding for bikes.
“That’s about the same cost as a mile of highway.”
Portland isn’t satisfied with its 6% of all trips made by bike. “It’s led to a discussion of, ‘what’s next?’ Do we need more protected bike paths that (repurpose a car lane)?” The city is considering more cycle tracks with signals for bikes.
Bike share, which has grown from 15 to 40 cities, “can really change the culture of a city,” he said, citing D.C.’s Capital Bike Share (which has paid for itself). It opened the way for a bike lane up Pennsylvania Avenue, the Presidential Inauguration route.
“Bikes can be mobile traffic calming devices,” Mapes concludes. When it comes to America’s obesity problem, he says, bikes will tap “our strategic calorie reserve.”

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