As a bicyclist with decades of experience negotiating perilous city streets, I can attest that what’s been accomplished over the past two decades is nothing short of amazing. Biking was definitely high-risk behavior in the 1970s when I came of age as a rider.
At one point in the ‘80s, I nearly sold my bike after encountering a dead bicyclist at an intersection just steps from my apartment near the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. Her body was severed at the waist after being hit by a truck. She was riding in a bike lane—one of few in the country at that time—and had been following all the rules of the road. That was not enough to keep her safe.
I thought seriously about giving up my bike. Instead, I called my city council member with a plea to make biking safer around town. She connected me to a citizen’s advisory council exploring what could be done to improve conditions on the streets. I moved away shortly afterwards, but upon returning three years later found Minneapolis a better place to ride.
A big change can be felt everyday on the streets of my hometown. The outright hostility or dangerous indifference I experienced from many drivers in the 1980s has dwindled to an obnoxious few. With increased bike traffic, motorists are now accustomed to sharing the road—and indeed many folks behind the wheel may be heading home to ride their own bikes. According to the American Journal of Public Health, the severe injury rate (per miles traveled) for Minneapolis bicyclists plunged 79 percent between 2000 and 2015.
Small steps have led, eventually, to significant changes across the country. Today, bicycling is poised to become part of the American Way of Life as more people of all races, ages, incomes and genders take to the streets on two wheels. Energy is moving fast in this direction in cities, small towns and suburbs everywhere.
Our hope is that the ideas and stories in this report will help make that dream a reality for anyone who likes to ride for fun, transportation and exercise. The next steps are to take this report and make it a book in spring of 2018 in time for National Bike Month in May. Our crowdsourcing campaign to starts in November of 2017. Learn more and help us make that happen here: pedallove.org/promise-of-bicycling-report/.