Tuesday, September 02, 2008

U.S. lags in global bicycling boom

Image of Sunday Streets in San Francisco on August 31, 2008
From the Washington Post, 08.31.08:

For Bicyclists, a Widening Patchwork World
U.S. Lags Behind Two-Wheeled Boom

TACHIA, Taiwan -- Antony Lo is one happy biker. He is 60 but looks younger, with a body buffed by commuting 130 miles a week on his bike. He is also president of Taiwan-based Giant, the world's largest bicycle company, where sales are soaring, helped along by global anxiety over oil prices. With undisguised glee, Lo says: "High-priced gasoline is here to stay. I tell my people we are just at the beginning of a very big cycling boom."

Boom it is...Yet when it comes to using a bike for everyday transportation, the boom appears to have bypassed many countries. While Northern Europe and Japan have figured out how to make bicycle commuting a safe, cheap alternative to driving, the United States, Canada, Australia and Britain have not. And the world's two most populous nations, China and India, are discarding bicycles in favor of cars. A rising middle class in both countries views cycling as an unhappy reminder of the recent past, when nearly everyone was poor.

Still, among the world's most developed countries, a reliable recipe has emerged for making cycling a mainstream means of getting to work. Commuters in Northern Europe have been lured out of their cars by bike lanes, secure bike parking and easy access to mass transportation. At the same time, steep automobile taxes, congestion-zone fees and go-slow rules have made inner-city driving a costly pain in the neck. In the Netherlands, where such carrot-and-stick policies have been in place for decades, 27 percent of all trips are by bike.

"It is very clear how to do this," said John Pucher, a professor of urban planning at Rutgers University and lead author of a global study of strategies that promote cycling. "It is not rocket science."

In the United States, with the exception of a handful of cities, these strategies have been ignored. Car-centric transportation policies and suburban sprawl continue to make bicycle commuting rare, arduous and relatively dangerous. Although millions of Americans recreate on bikes, they ride them for just 0.4 percent of their trips to work, according to the U.S. Census. Germans are 10 times more likely than Americans to ride a bike and three times less likely to get hurt while doing so...

At the headquarters of Giant, the island-based bicycle maker, Antony Lo said that if gasoline prices remain high worldwide, government transportation policies will have to change. "People are waking up," he said. "This is a long-term trend, not a fad." (Read more, includes video.)
Impressive article in the influential Washington Post, featuring reporting from Beijing, London, New Delhi, Berlin, and Tokyo. There is also a video on the impressive robotic bicycle parking facility built in Tokyo. The lesson from all these cities is: "If you build it, they will come." Bicycle facilities attract bicyclists.

Image: San Francisco Chronicle
Visit: Obesity and high oil prices are good news for the world’s biggest bikemaker, The Economist
Visit: The Bike Boom--Will it Pass Us By?, Outside Blog
Visit: Eurobike and web tech, Cyclelicious
Visit: As oil prices rise, U.S. lags behind two-wheeled boom in rest of world, Cycle Rochester
Visit: More cycling inspiration from abroad, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Question from Europe: American cycling behavior?, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Tony Bullard said...

You know, the more I read up on cycling advocacy, the less bad things I see about governments making permanent solutions to encourage cycling. You've got healthier citizens, less pollution, less traffic, less parking...there's got to be a downside somewhere. I would imagine that overall the cost of serving bikes better can't be nearly as expensive as widening roads and such.

I guess the only downside is curmudgeons who don't want to bike. Poor saps.

David Hembrow said...

However, make it nice enough and everyone cycles because it's a pleasant thing to do.

It's already been achieved over here in the Netherlands. In cities like ours more cycle journeys are made than than car journeys.

The bike industry here already provides more for commuters and other utility usage than for specialist cycling. Even American companies like Trek have for years sold utility bikes here which they don't sell in the US. The popularity of cycle racing ensures there is no shortage of demand for sport bikes, but every bike shop here already has more fully equipped bikes for commuters than it does sport bikes.

Vimal said...

I had never heard of this blog and was surprised to find my bike on it.I am always amazed at the comments section on these blogs. I think someday I need to write something up to address the issues of cost and sense of worth when it comes to any type of commuter bicycles.

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