Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Best Cities For Cycling: Still The Greatest

So what can Fort Wayne learn from these cities?
1. That bike infrastructure will cost a lot of money (what doesn't?), but that other places have shown that it can be done. And today their communities and most importantly their citizens are reaping the benefits. Will Fort Wayne make the leap? Only time will tell.
2. That when we plan we need to have specific goals in mind. For example: Having 10% of all trips under two miles be by bicycle in 5 years, or having 100 miles of bike paths in 5 years, or increasing the number of cyclists at a rate of 5% per year for the next ten years, or encouraging kids to ride their bikes to school with a safe routes to school program (you get the idea).

Portland, Oregon
What perennially puts Portland atop our list is that you don't need to know anything about bike lanes or city planning to see that it is a haven for cyclists. Just hang out in a coffee shop and look out the window: Bikes and riders of all stripes are everywhere. City support is important, too. In response to six fatal car-bike crashes last year, Portland rushed approval of 14 bike boxes--painted areas in front of cars at red lights that give bikes priority--at high-risk intersections, among other safety measures.

The city council has unabashedly stated that its goal is to unseat Portland as the best U.S. city for cycling. Its 10-year, $240 million bike master plan, passed by a unanimous council vote last fall, may just get it there. Among the objectives: tripling the number of journeys made by bike and adding 450 miles of bike paths.

Richard Daley, the mayor for the past 19 years and a dedicated roadie, has ushered in a bicycle renaissance, with a growing network of bike lanes, a bike station (pictured) with valet bike parking, showers and indoor bike racks. Plus, the city council recently outlawed dooring. Next up: The new downtown Chicago Criterium debuts in July.

San Francisco
All bike infrastructure projects here have been halted since 2006, when two "concerned" groups sued the city for not putting plans through the environmental impact review process. A judge ruled that the review needed to happen, and the city may not get back on track until 2010. But here's why San Fran rules: The local bike culture has stood strong, and the number of cyclists increased by 15 percent last year alone.

Boulder, Colorado
The most physically fit city in the most physically fit state is an outdoor paradise. No surprise there. Fourteen percent of all trips here are now taken by bike--an almost European figure. Perhaps even more telling is that Boulder is raising the next generation of cyclists: The city's Safe Routes to School program has had such an impact locally that one school reports that 75 percent of its students now bike or walk to school.

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