Tag Archives: James Schwartz

Bicycles and the city

Many cities are investing in bicycle infrastructure such as expanded bike lanes or subsidized bicycle sharing programs, and this is increasing bicycle traffic. InfraNet Lab blog writes that in Montreal and New York City ridership has increase about 30% since 2008. London has more than doubled since 2000. London’s new large capacity bike lanes have lead to a 70% increase in cycle traffic into the city reports UK’s Bikehub in one year.

This big city provides a list of a few example cities, and Streetfilms, which is a NGO that creates short films on how transportation policy can improve city life,  has a number of films on urban bicycling and bicycle infrastructure.  For example,


Cycling Copenhagen, Through North American Eyes

There is lots of discussion over how to do incorporate bicycles in cities is intense and diverse. For example,

1) James Schwartz argues that it is good for urban businesses.

2) Canadian sustainability write Chris Turner on bike lanes (parts 1, 2, and 3)

3) Evan Osnos in his New York blog post Bicycle lanes of Beijing compares the history of bike lines in Beijing with recent debates over bike lanes in new york

But an article on Sustainable Cities Collective by Kasey Klimes The Real Reason Why Bicycles are the Key to Better Cities argues that urban cycling is important, not just because it’s healthier, uses less energy and pollutes less than other transport, but that they provide a means for becoming engaged in city life. Klimes writes:

Invite a motorist for a bike ride through your city and you’ll be cycling with an urbanist by the end of the day. Even the most eloquent of lectures about livable cities and sustainable design can’t compete with the experience from atop a bicycle saddle.

“These cars are going way too fast,” they may mutter beneath their breath.

“How are we supposed to get across the highway?”

“Wow, look at that cathedral! I didn’t know that was there.”

“I didn’t realize there were so many vacant lots in this part of town.”

“Hey, let’s stop at this cafe for a drink.”

Suddenly livability isn’t an abstract concept, it’s an experience. Human scale, connectivity, land use efficiency, urban fabric, complete streets… all the codewords, catchphrases, and academic jargon can be tossed out the window because now they are one synthesized moment of appreciation. Bicycles matter because they are a catalyst of understanding – become hooked on the thrill of cycling, and everything else follows. Now a new freeway isn’t a convenience but an impediment. Mixed-use development isn’t a threat to privacy but an opportunity for community. And maybe, just maybe, car-free living will eventually be seen not as restrictive, but as a door to newfound freedom.

The real reason why bicycles are the key to better cities?

Some might call it enlightenment.

And BBC reports on research that suggests that cyclists are happier people.

Hopefully the indirect consequences of this regrowth of urban cycling will be positive. I know I’ll be looking at the city differently on my bike to work.