From the November 2006 issue of Governing:
Pedal Pushers: Fair- and foul-weather cities alike are gearing up to make it safer and easier for commuters to bicycle to work.
Chicago can be stiflingly hot during the summer and rain-chilled in the spring, and its wind-whipped winters are the stuff of legend. So when the subject is “bicycle commuting,” Chicago is not the first city that springs to mind. But it’s becoming a hot bike-to-work town. In the next decade, it plans to expand its network of bike trails to 500 miles, and has set a goal of putting a bike path of some sort within half a mile of every city resident.
This article offers much to be encouraged about. However, it fails to discuss what I think is the biggest challenge to increased bicycle use for transportation: Sprawl.
The writer offers many examples of U.S. cities working successfully to encourage cycling, such as New York, Portland, and even San Francisco. However, it also mentions the failure of cities like Houston and Atlanta to realize their dreams of bike-friendliness.
A key to making a community more amenable to bicycling is keeping it compact, keeping destinations close to one another. If the workplace, school, or supermarket is less than a mile away, then bicycling is an attractive option. If these destinations are spread out over a sprawling community like, say, Phoenix, then a car becomes the more likely option.
You can have miles and miles of bike lanes on expansive streets in sprawling communities with almost no bicyclists. There aren't any destinations in close proximity.
Image: Web capture. Beautiful bike lane in sprawling community, but no shade, no close destinations, and no bicyclists.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site