Friday, May 04, 2007

Wall Street Journal: Building a Better Bike Lane

Two-story bike parking facility in Amsterdam
More inspiration from Europe, published in today's Wall Street Journal, 05.04.07:

Building a Better Bike Lane
Bike-friendly cities in Europe are launching a new attack on car culture. Can the U.S. catch up

COPENHAGEN -- No one wears bike helmets here. They're afraid they'll mess up their hair. "I have a big head and I would look silly," Mayor Klaus Bondam says.

People bike while pregnant, carrying two cups of coffee, smoking, eating bananas. At the airport, there are parking spaces for bikes. In the emergency room at Frederiksberg Hospital on weekends, half the biking accidents are from people riding drunk. Doctors say the drunk riders tend to run into poles.

Flat, compact and temperate, the Netherlands and Denmark have long been havens for bikers. In Amsterdam, 40% of commuters get to work by bike. In Copenhagen, more than a third of workers pedal to their offices. But as concern about global warming intensifies--the European Union is already under emissions caps and tougher restrictions are expected--the two cities are leading a fresh assault on car culture. A major thrust is a host of aggressive new measures designed to shift bike commuting into higher gear, including increased prison time for bike thieves and the construction of new parking facilities that can hold up to 10,000 bikes.

The rest of Europe is paying close attention. Officials from London , Munich and Zurich (plus a handful from the U.S. ) have visited Amsterdam 's transportation department for advice on developing bicycle-friendly infrastructure and policies. Norway aims to raise bicycle traffic to at least 8% of all travel by 2015 -- double its current level -- while Sweden hopes to move from 12% to 16% by 2010. This summer, Paris will put thousands of low-cost rental bikes throughout the city to cut traffic, reduce pollution and improve parking. (Read more.)
The extensive article indicates the diverse range of people on bikes--from prime ministers to recent immigrants--and relates some of the challenges created by a super-abundance of bicyclists. Oh! For such problems in the U.S.

While some San Francisco media outlets have inflamed motorist hostility to bicyclists, the leading business journal in the U.S. has this great article on the enlightened, bike-friendly policies of the Continent. Could this be seen as a dope slap to the petro-drenched Bush Administration by the betters minds of the corporate class? Are they fearful of being eclipsed by their more energy-efficient industrial rivals across the pond?

Image: Two-story bike parking in Amsterdam. Photo at Virtual Tourist
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

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