Bicycles and Cities

Many cities have been introducing public shared bike systems.  Montreal city just introduced a city bike system, Bixi, 300 station and 3,000 bikes.  The system allows you to check if bikes are available over the internet – and users pay for a subscription and longer bike rentals -less than 1/2 hr is free.  Stockholm has City Bikes, 70 stations and about 700 bikes, which work with a subscription for 3 hr rentals and are a partnership between an advertising company and Stockholm City.  Paris’s big Velib bike system started in 2007, now has 20,000 bicycles and 1,450 stations, and is a partnership with an advertising company.  These systems are part of an increased use of bicycles in western cities.

David Byrne, pop star and bicyclist, reviews Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities in the New York Times:

Full disclosure: I’ve ridden a bike around New York as my principal means of transport for 30 years, so I’m inclined to sympathize with the idea that a cycling revolution is upon us, and that it’s a good thing. Like Jeff Mapes, the author of “Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities,” I’ve watched the streets fill over the years with more and varied bike riders. It’s no longer just me, some food delivery guys and a posse of reckless messengers. Far from it.

That said, the revolution isn’t here just yet. Hedge fund managers and General Motors executives aren’t riding to work (though don’t laugh, they will), and this book is not likely to reach beyond the already converted, which includes me, other cycling advocates, and people in the city-planning and transportation universe. But the book is useful — for those of us who occasionally find ourselves on the defensive, Mapes provides names, dates, facts and figures. He details how cities from Amsterdam to Paris to New York to Davis, Calif., have developed policies encouraging cycling in recent decades, and how other towns are just beginning to make way for bikes. He lays out in an easily digestible way a fair amount of material on trip patterns, traffic safety and air pollution. He quotes the relevant studies and shows how those studies have been either heeded or ignored. All this information is great ammunition for those of us who would like to see American cities become more bike-friendly but may be a tough sell for the people on the fence — the ones who’ve taken the occasional Sunday ride along a riverfront greenway or in a park, or have a vague feeling that they might possibly bike to work somehow someday.

Mapes finds the experience of riding around Portland — North America’s most bike-friendly city (though I think Vancouver is close) — so enjoyable that he takes as a given that it’s a positive thing, something that more communities should accommodate without question.

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