On a roll . . .
January 5, 2012 10:55 AM   Subscribe

How the Dutch got their cycle paths (Youtube). How Paris decided to become a bicycle friendly city. How Copenhagen became a cycling city (PDF). How San Francisco became a cycling city. How London tried (and failed) to become a cycling city. How Sevilla, Spain is becoming a world-class bicycling city (more: Seville's lesson and Seville's remarkable transformation). How Ciclovia came to Bogotá (Streetfilms). How Portland plans to become the first world-class bike city in America; how expanding Portland's inexpensive bicycle network led to an exponentially expanding amount of bicycling (Streetfilms). How Janette Sadik-Khan is transforming New York City streets (Streetfilms).

Some organizations that are working for bicycle friendly cities, states, and countries: The International Bicycle Fund maintains lists of bicycle advocacy organizations in
posted by flug (33 comments total) 78 users marked this as a favorite
Of course there's the town where I grew up, and my alma mater : Davis.
posted by Eekacat at 10:57 AM on January 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Don't forget Detroit! Although you better have a pair of Gatorskins/equivalent if you don't want to be patching tires all summer.
posted by ofthestrait at 11:01 AM on January 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ugh. Makes me sad to be in Philly where (probably soon to be ousted) columnist Stu Bykofsky has views that are more mainstream than local cyclists care to admit.
posted by supercres at 11:21 AM on January 5, 2012

There's a shot of me riding to work in this Streetfilms video! Unfortunately the comments there are the usual vehicular-vs-segregation flame war in which each side is certain that the other wants all cyclists to die screaming (which, along with the Helmet Debate, is why I stay away from bike forums)
posted by theodolite at 11:21 AM on January 5, 2012

re: Dutch > Sadly, we've fixed the problem of unsafe streets in the US by keeping the children safely indoors at all times and only allowing them out for scheduled events, not by making the roads any safer.

Thank you for this treasure trove of resources.
posted by jsavimbi at 11:23 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's always sad when Europe adopts some good idea first, because it means the US will never ever ever follow.
posted by DU at 11:24 AM on January 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, like the metric system.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:25 AM on January 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

One thing that seems to be barely mentioned in the Sevilla article(s) is the practically nationwide presence of municipal bikes in major cities in Spain (or, at least in Barcelona, Valencia, and Sevilla). Nearly everywhere you go, there's a lockup with a row of bikes that you can rent for a bit with a card and take to some other lockup in another location, and they seem to get really heavy use. So, even if residents don't own a bike themselves, it's pretty trivial to go grab one (including lights!) and just toodle off somewhere else. Also, Spanish and European cities have a pretty healthy tradition of already having areas that are closed off to cars/pedestrian only or places where trying to park or navigate is near impossible, so there's probably not as much resistance to decreasing car traffic.
posted by LionIndex at 11:27 AM on January 5, 2012

In Canada, Montreal is a shining beacon of cycle-friendliness - Toronto not so much...
posted by aeshnid at 11:32 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you for these wonderful and inspiring resources! They will help me dream of how the local culture where I live might adjust to the presence of cyclists on the road.
posted by melatonic at 11:39 AM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pittsburgh's trying. We've got roads that are unfriendly to any kind of vehicle and generally shitty weather but there's been a lot of progress in the last decade. Bike Pittsburgh has gotten to be a big presence, the city has a staff Bike Czar, a ton of iconic bike racks around and the Buses all have bike racks installed. Now if we could get the local drivers to put down their cell phones and pay attention to bicyclists (or anything).
posted by octothorpe at 11:45 AM on January 5, 2012

Nicely done.
posted by caddis at 11:57 AM on January 5, 2012

Bicing is the name of the bike network in Barcelona and it rocks. Hundreds of stations, it's like 35 euros a year for a card and if your trip is less than 30 minutes, it's free. And you can get just about anywhere in Barcelona by bike in 30 minutes. I've used it heavily for the last year and never gone over. House to beach in 6 minutes ftw. The bikes are maintained reasonably well and there's hardly ever not one when you want one. Sometimes a bit of a problem finding a rack with an empty spot to drop it off, but since there are so many racks, it's not a big deal to go a block or two to find one.
posted by conifer at 12:01 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

2 more months before Boston's Hubway reopens.

And this summer the same contractor is setting up in New York City.
posted by ocschwar at 12:10 PM on January 5, 2012

Don't forget Upstate New York's the Rail Trail, which extends along the decommissioned Hudson and Harlem River Conrail lines. It'll ultimately link up with Connecticut.
For off-roaders, there's Taconic Hereford's 909 acres of mountain bike trails, along with Newburgh's Stewart State Forest,
adjacent to the Stewart Airport/Air National Guard Base.
posted by Smart Dalek at 12:25 PM on January 5, 2012

How the Dutch got their cycle paths psychopaths.

Seriously ... have you ever walked in Amsterdam? Those people are freakin' dangerous.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 12:45 PM on January 5, 2012

The Dutch would have never been overrun in WWII if they had just bolted machine guns on their bikes. The Germans wouldn't have stood a chance.

Also, Dutch kids STILL shout, "Waar mijn fiets?" at German cars. The taking of their bicycles still rankles.
posted by Cathedral at 12:55 PM on January 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not mentioned above, but Trondheim, in Norway, made me -irrationally, I admit- want to ban bikes. I've seen people with push chairs forced onto the road into oncoming traffic as the cyclist cannotbestopped.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 12:58 PM on January 5, 2012

ZenMaster, the good news is that while it may be startling to have people cycling quickly past you, you're still 10-60 times more likely to get killed/hurt by a car.

Here's some 2006 stats from Germany / Norway. See p.15, section 3.4. 98% of collisions that killed a pedestrian were with motor vehicles. 89% of injury-causing collisions with pedestrians were with motor vehicles.

Highlight of the articles for me was the motto for safe cycling infrastructure: "Save the children" from being run over by cars.
posted by anthill at 1:05 PM on January 5, 2012

Of course there's the town where I grew up, and my alma mater : Davis.

I find Davis an interesting study. It has loads of cyclists, loads of bike infrastructure, and has been bike-centric since the seventies- and yet is chock-full of some of the most oblivious, careless, ignorant, distracted car drivers I've ever experienced. I've had people pass me on the left in the wrong lane when I've signaled and moved to the left to make a left turn. I've had people open their doors (I never ride in the bike lane in Davis, only on the actual line) without looking; pass me and pull into a parking spot on the right in front of me causing me to screech to a halt (no signal, ever!); fail to stop opposite me at a stop sign after I've stopped in order to deliberately cut me off while turning left; drive in the bike lane; park in the bike lane; honk at me for riding in the street when the bike path goes under the freeway, and I am going to the train station; and just generally act like cyclists are a huge imposition. I'm not even talking about goofy college kids here- every one of the lousy drivers I've encountered had been middle aged or older. I should mention that my regular cycling city is downtown Oakland where the streets seem like they have been carpet bombed and people regularly drive the wrong way on one way streets, yet Davis is a nightmare comparatively. I can't figure out why. Thank god everyone is generally driving very slow there.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:20 PM on January 5, 2012

Of course there's the town where I grew up, and my alma mater : Davis.

Eekacat, that's a good point. Some of the very best bicycle cities in the U.S. are mid to small sized cities--probably easier to drive the change on a smaller scale (and it doesn't hurt to be a college town, either).

Along with Davis, Boulder CO and Madison WI are definitely among the very top in the U.S.

In my state, Columbia MO and Springfield MO, smaller cities with a large college population, are light years ahead of the rest of the cities.

Also I should mention the Bicycle Friendly Communities program which rates and recognizes U.S. cities for the bicycle friendliness. However, our collective starting point is so low that being on that list, especially on the lower levels, means something more along the lines of "is starting to make a decent effort towards becoming bicycle friendly" than "is actually and completely bicycle friendly in the most beautiful way right at this moment."
posted by flug at 1:40 PM on January 5, 2012

I was just reading about the death of a Bicing rider in Barcelona due to being run over by a dump truck. The gist of the article (in el pais,search on bicing and select arrollado por camión) was that even though Bicing is awesome, there is inadequate separation between bike lanes and vehicle lanes (no concrete, just rubber studs), there is inadequate signage reminding vehicles of the presence of bikes, and traffic signals don't allow bikes to move first, so as to get up speed, get out of the way and be more visible. The truck in question apparently was signaling to turn, but continued straight and didn't see the cyclist, who, it is implied, may have trusted the turn signal.
So many things obviously went wrong in that situation that obviously even in bike friendly cities, lots more can be done, starting, I think, with better separation. Sometimes the truck just doesn't see you.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:06 PM on January 5, 2012

(which, along with the Helmet Debate, is why I stay away from bike forums)

There's a helmet debate? I was just talking about how amazingly grateful I am that helmets have become "common sense," but maybe hanging out with mountain/road bike geeks is biasing my perception.
posted by Stagger Lee at 2:56 PM on January 5, 2012

Quite right about about London. There really is a lack of ambition and I do sometimes wonder if those who design most of our cycle lanes have ever actually used a bike. It's likely to remain that way until Transport for London implements a road strategy that does more than pay the thinnest of lip service to those of us who are not in cars.
posted by rhymer at 3:07 PM on January 5, 2012

Progress everywhere other than Birmingham, England it seems.

posted by srboisvert at 3:30 PM on January 5, 2012

> Ugh. Makes me sad to be in Philly where (probably soon to be ousted) columnist Stu Bykofsky has views that are more mainstream than local cyclists care to admit.

Ugh. It doesn't matter where you live; the right wing troll columnists all have the same indignant, whiny tone, the same habit of insults and name-calling, the same 1-2 sentence paragraphs. Check out Toronto's version of that column.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:23 PM on January 5, 2012

What? I thought Rob Ford outlawed bikes in Toronto already.
posted by sneebler at 6:42 PM on January 5, 2012

Obligatory, I'm on a bike!.

Thanks for that Detroit video, of thestrait, makes me miss the city.

We've had a series of preventable biker deaths in Seattle from automobiles the past couple years. And yet people are still outraged at who they've dubbed Mayor McSchwinn (McGinn) and his biker-friendly transit policies.

Still, I think overall the trend seems to be positive, bicycling is increasing in popularity. The trend towards moving to cities and increased gas prices will only help.
posted by formless at 9:34 PM on January 5, 2012

The shared-bike program in Mexico City has been a big success, so much so that there's a waiting list for membership and more neighborhoods getting stations in 2012. And the bike lanes installed on major thoroughfare Reforma are being extended this year.

If only there were a concurrent effort by the city government to enforce transportation regulations and get people to use bikes, and to be around cyclists, safely. The city installed traffic lights for bikes that run on the same timing system as the pedestrian crosswalk, which means that everyone ignores them (and nobody enforces them). People constantly go the wrong direction in the bike lanes, a dangerous situation for pedestrians who don't think to look both ways when they cross one-way streets. Taxis park in the bike lanes or near enough to them to deposit their passengers directly in the path of oncoming bikes. Cars don't use their blinkers when they're going to turn past the bike line and can cut across a cyclist's path without warning (this has caused two minor accidents involving me on a bike). Outside of the bike lanes, cyclists go the wrong way on one-way streets, run red lights without a thought (yes, I'm familiar with the debate on this), and cut off pedestrians who have the right-of-way. And Mexico City's transportation rules don't allow police, even if they had any inclination to enforce the law, to fine cyclists for bad behavior. All they can do is give a warning, and I've never seen even that happen.

Mexico isn't exactly known for its citizens' respect for the law, but I had hoped that the city's ambitious program to popularize cycling would have included more of a focus on building a culture of safe riding and respect for cyclists. (One radio talk-show host got in trouble for calling cyclists a "plague," and I gather from the way I'm treated on the road that his opinion isn't so rare.)

Anybody in other newly bike-friendly cities having a similar experience? Or is this just a Mexico thing.
posted by phantroll at 12:44 PM on January 6, 2012

The Netherlands has an impressive (to this American's eye) network of countrywide paths. Imagine an Interstate highway system for bikes. This is the LF route network. Furthermore, this video of how the paths get made always delights me.
posted by knile at 12:04 AM on January 7, 2012

Knile, in addition to the LF route network (long bike route network), which is more geared towards touring, there's also the knooppunten network (bike path node network). This is a very fine grained network of routes that are very amenable for getting around on your bike. It's a system of numbered nodes and signs. You can plan a route to get somewhere by bike by memorising the sequence of nodes that you'll pass. There are a few sites that help you plan your route and print out your map. This is a good one. To get an impression you can fill in the city of 'Utrecht' for instance in the first field and then zoom out a little bit. But Amsterdam or another place will work as well.
It's an amazing system that apparently started out in the Flemish part of Belgium financed by funds to handle the closing of the Belgian mines.
I never realised this was anything special until I met some expat Canadian bike heads who couldn't stop raving about it.
posted by joost de vries at 2:34 AM on January 7, 2012

Yes, thanks, joost de vries, I forgot to include that. I started to write something about it in my comment, but couldn't find a good general English language description other than the one I'm familiar with. In my experience as the knooppunten and LF line up a fair amount, I get them confused easily.
posted by knile at 5:01 AM on January 7, 2012

Anybody in other newly bike-friendly cities having a similar experience?

It's fairly common to have issues like this in places that go rather suddenly from bicycling being a rare/fringe type activity to bicycling as commonplace--sort of teething problems, if you will.

It's quite common for a pretty substantial backlash against cycling to develop--think of the protests and lawsuits against bike lanes in New York, the lawsuit that put development of bicycle facilities completely on hold for five years or so in San Francisco, and in my home state, a significant public and political backlash against bicycling when Columbia, Missouri, received a large federal grant and made a significant leap forward in bicycle facilities over the past 5 years or so.

I think a lot of the key to whether a city becomes truly bicycle friendly or not happens in the response to this stage. If they address many of the issues that you bring up above, then it is possible to move to the next stage. If those issues are ignored then things can revert really fast.

FWIW the birth of the (much maligned) Critical Mass movement in San Francisco happened in exactly this context. There was a very large existing number of bicyclists but they felt they were getting no respect or support from the city. Politicians saw them as a politically powerless group--the sort who wouldn't even bother to vote and so not worth spending time or resources on.

That's why Critical Mass was created--to visibly demonstrate that the bicycle community was a large, visible, political force--and that's why "I bicycle and I vote" became one of their mantras.

Point is not that every city needs to follow the model of San Francisco and Critical Mass--but that in some way and at some point, city officials have to recognize cyclists as as constituency and start making real changes in support of cycling and the whole constellation of livability issues that turns a city from a giant sewer for motorized traffic into a place people actually want to live.
posted by flug at 7:22 PM on January 7, 2012

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