Cycling is enjoying a renaissance around the world, with more cities investing in cycling infrastructure, and more people using bikes as a means of transportation. It’s not too surprising considering that oil prices continue to rise, and bicycles are the most energy efficient means of transportation we have ever invented.
Copenhagen and Amsterdam
Copenhagen and Amsterdam have been at the forefront of cycling culture for decades. In both cities everyone bikes and bikes are used for every imaginable type of trip. These are the cities to look at for inspiring ideas that can make cycling safer and more accessible. Ideas like the Green wave, that times stoplights along bike routes to the speed of a casual cyclist – 15-20km/h.
In many ways, Paris kicked off the cycling revolution with its Velib bike-share program. Copenhagen and Amsterdam have always been the darling cities of cycling, but Paris showed how a city without a strong bike commuting culture (cycling was a sport – think Tour de France – not a means of commuting), can grow to embrace bike commuting. Before Velib was introduced in Paris, less 1% of trips were by bike. After Velib, that quickly doubled and continues to grow. The introduction of Velib was also accompanied by replacing many car lanes with dedicated bus lanes and bike lanes.
Montreal has similar numbers of cyclists and bike infrastructure compared to Vancouver, but there is one huge difference between the two (and it’s not Montreal’s harsh winters). Montreal has created the world’s best bike-sharing program BIXI, which is now being licensed for use around the world.
When I lived in London in 2005, I didn’t know a single person who biked. According to 2007 stats, a measly 1.8% of trips were by bike (compared to 21% walking, 38% by car, 40% public transit). Well things are changing in London. The new Conservative mayor is pushing cycling forward in a big way. In conjunction with a BIXI bike sharing program (nicknamed Boris Bikes), London is building a series of connected “cycling superhighways” throughout the city to make cycling safer and encourage more people to ride.
I’m not kidding when I say that I’m militant about cycling
– London Mayor Boris Johnston
New York City
New York is a surprising city to see embracing cycling. There isn’t a large cycling base and most New York streets are heavily congested. And yet, the city has created protected bike lanes along First, Second, Eighth, and Ninth Avenues, and has converted Park Avenue into a 11 km long car-free zone for the summer. The cycling infrastructure is part of a larger remaking of New York, with more bus lanes, more cyclists, a possible congestion charge, and ultimately less cars.
It is interesting that many cities are embracing cycling as part of a larger strategy to reduce car use, in conjunction with better pedestrian space, dedicated bus lanes, and even congestion charges. Most North American cities (and even London and Paris in Europe) are starting with less then 2% of trips by bicycle, and are enticing new riders with separated bike lanes and bike-share programs.
In related cycling news, you should check out this video of the Copenhagen Wheel, which is promising to add regenerative breaking to bicycles and embed sensors to collect data on traffic patterns and air pollution, and share that data with other cyclists. Very interesting.