Smart Cycling, Smart PlanningMarch 19, 2014
By Joey Kantor,
I’m a cyclist. At this time of year, my mind starts to wander. I’m eagerly anticipating the day when I can ditch the car keys, gas pumps, rush hour traffic and parking fees and hit the road on my two-wheeled, silent steed.
Thankfully, our fair city of Minneapolis can boast great strides in recent years towards prioritizing smart, long-term, sustainable and healthy ways to get people from point A to Z. From biking lanes and sharing programs to light rail, we’re making progress. We’re even considering putting the trolley back on Nicollet. Simply put, cars just aren’t the transportation dictator they were 20 years ago.
But I’m not alone in saying we’re not done yet.
This sea change towards non-car modes of transport isn’t unique to Minneapolis. In fact, the New York Times just published an article that uncovers an intriguing metric: people are using public transportation at the highest rate since 1956. Quoted in this New York Times article, the head of the American Public Transportation Association said, “Now gas is averaging well under $4 a gallon, the economy is coming back and people are riding transit in record numbers … We’re seeing a fundamental shift in how people are moving about their communities.” And two years ago, the Wall Street Journal pointed out the shift away from suburbia towards urban living that continues today.
It’s no surprise, then, that organizations like PeopleForBikes.org are popping up to address the need for biking to be an even safer and smarter option – for those who bike and those who don’t. I’d venture to guess that those who aren’t happy with the increased number of cyclists do, in fact, value the benefits that cycling provides: a healthier population, increased overall happiness, decreased pollution and a more sustainable way of thinking about urban movement.
I’ll also venture to guess, then, that the sentiments of opponents to a healthy bike culture are rooted in anxieties about sharing the road. And that’s why I’m excited to see this latest competition that awards six cities with program funding to build better bike lanes. The Green Lane Project, launched just two years ago in 2012, “works with U.S. cities to speed the installation of protected bike lanes around the country. These on-street lanes are separated from traffic by curbs, planters, parked cars or posts to help organize the street and make riding a bike an appealing option for more people.” Hear, hear.
As we look towards another cycling season, I am excited to see momentum towards smart integration of cities and cycling. I’ve traveled to, and biked in, Mexico City, Paris, Barcelona, London, and more where population density and numbers far exceed those of Minneapolis. Biking is palpably contributing to the unclogging of their main arteries, and it should continue to do the same for us as our numbers go up. Even though Minneapolis didn’t win this particular opportunity, it’s heartening to see smart cycling planning gaining traction so it can be beneficial to all involved – whether you’re on a bike or not.