National Bike Month is now well behind us, which means most media outlets in the U.S. can resume their neglect of bicycles, transportation policy, health care, oil wars--and focus their attention back to covering more relevant news. Fortunately, there is no shortage of cycling inspiration from regions beyond U.S. borders.
The Netherlands has long been a model for American bicycling advocates. The Fietsberaad, a bicycle think tank funded by the Dutch Ministry of Transport, has published an outstanding 36-page brochure, Cycling in the Netherlands (download PDF), which summarizes the policies and facilities of the preeminent bicycling culture in Europe.
From introduction to Cycling in the Netherlands:
There are good reasons for encouraging bicycle use. High bicycle usage contributes to the accessibility of cities and towns, to many citizens’ scope for sustainable development and--not least--to public health. Cities and regions in the Netherlands are often regarded as examples of best practices on cycling and supporting policies. We owe our thanks to facilitating governments, the work of active NGO’s and many companies that earn their living with cycling related business. In this way, there is a whole chain of cycling infrastructure that makes cycling an attractive option for our daily mobility. (Download PDF.)The report documents the link between bicycle policy and bicycle use: "In the first place, good bicycle facilities are simply a necessity to facilitate the many cyclists. These good bicycle facilities keep bicycle use high and continue to grow." I also admire the Dutch example of employer encouragement policies, where instead of ample free parking provided by the company, employees are offered a complimentary bike: "Employees appear to feel themselves morally stimulated to bicycle more when they have accepted a free bicycle from the boss."
The U.K. provides additional inspiration, as London--site of the "Grand Départ" of this year's Tour de France--has seen boom in bicycling since the introduction of central city congestion charges, according to the city's Mayor Ken Livingstone in a recent New York Times editorial: "The number of bicycle journeys on London’s major roads has risen by 83 percent, to almost half a million a day. Cycling has become something of a boom industry in London, with improvement in health for those involved and substantial benefit for the environment."
The British sustainable transportation advocacy group Sustrans has also released a new report illustrating the health benefits of public investment in bicycling. From Cycling is "best buy" for transport:
Transport investment should be directed to cycling, says new Sustrans report. The value of investment in active travel reviews evidence from around the world, and concludes that schemes to encourage a shift from private motorised transport to walking and cycling are the most cost efficient use of transport funds. (Download "The value of investment in active travel")The great German capital city of Berlin has realized a surge in bicycling after significant public investment in bicycling facilities. From "Bike City Berlin":
Two years ago, the Berlin Senate decided that bikes should make up 15% of city traffic by the year 2010. Results released from the newest traffic study of the Berlin Development Administration show that the goal could be reached early: the number of bicyclists has more than doubled in the last decade to 400,000 riders daily, accounting for 12% of total traffic. (Read more.)But the foreign bicycling inspiration doesn't just come from across the pond. Mexico City's mayor is aggressively pushing bicycling as a partial solution to that city's chronic traffic congestion. From the San Diego Union Tribune, 07.02.07:
Mexico City's hopes riding on two wheels
Bicycle use urged to lower congestion
Mayor Marcelo Ebrard delivered his shocking order to top officials from beneath a leafy tree in one of the few remaining parks in Mexico City. On the first Monday of every month, Ebrard announced, he and his handpicked team would travel to work on bicycles.
Bicycles? In Mexico City, where more than 3 million cars jam the streets? Where the pollution is so thick that people think the color of the sky is gray? (Read more.)
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site