Above: The above short film by Streetfilms illustrates beautifully the transformation that's possible in ridership when we create safe, connected places for people to ride. The film shows the 111th Street protected bike lane in Queens NY which residents fought hard to make happen.
Note: This blog is an excerpt from the upcoming book "The Surprising Promise of Bicycling in America" we're writing in collaboration with Jay Walljasper. Our goal is to have the book published in print and ebook formats by early spring 2018. Please support the book becoming a reality here: pedallove.org/surprising-promise-of-bicycling-book/
Expanding access to biking means moving beyond stand-alone bike lanes to connected networks that give bicyclists the same ease of mobility that motorists enjoy on roads and pedestrians on sidewalks. That’s how many European nations have achieved impressive increases in bike ridership over recent decades. This vision—being jump-started in the US by Big Jump Project—can already be glimpsed in certain neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Indianapolis, Austin, Calgary and Fort Collins, Colorado.
The Big Jump project, launched by PeopleForBikes, is helping pioneer techniques for low-stress connected bike networks in ten US cities, from Providence to Memphis to Los Angeles over the next three years.
Seville, Spain, is the international poster child for this new idea.
“Like in the U.S., people there said ‘we will never bike because we love our cars too much and it’s too hot here in the summer’. But they went from 0.6 percent of trips by bike to almost seven percent in three years by building a connected grid of 100 miles of protected bike lanes,” says Gil Peñalosa, a globe-trotting international consultant on creating better communities. “If people have safe, easy access from their house to where they want to go, they will ride,” Peñalosa emphasizes.
Just a few years ago, the idea of riding a bike in America’s biggest, most densely populated city seemed preposterous to most New Yorkers. Now they take a half-million ride daily. What happened? Riding rose dramatically after the city launched an ambitious campaign to build networks of protected bike lanes, lower speed limits and redesign safer intersections.
“The culture of drivers in New York is changing,” explains Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives. “They now expect to see bicycles on the streets.”
Urban planners from around the world are flocking to Indianapolis to study the Cultural Trail, 8 miles of off-street bike and pedestrian paths connecting key destinations in the city center. Since opening in 2013, the trail has boosted biking across the city and set off a development boom all along the route.
Looking farther ahead, many cities will one day be linked to suburban communities and other cities via bike highways—which are taking off now in Europe. The Dutch and Danes have a head start in creating two-wheel freeways but Germany is now coming on strong. “They are looking at corridors for bike trips of 5 to 15 miles—many of them on e-bikes—next to congested highways, with the goal of getting 10 to 15 percent of the cars off the road at a cost much less than expanding highways,” says Randy Neufeld.