Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bike friendly cities

When people discuss what bike friendly cities are like, Copenhagen is at the top of the list. Here is a blog dedicated to the Bike Culture in Copenhagen. Copenhagenize.

So what do you think would help Omaha climb that list of bike friendly cities?


Scott Redd said...

Certainly the addition of striped bike lanes will go a long way. Even when a cyclist isn't present, a motorist seeing the lane and the signage will be reminded that there's a place for the bike on the street.

More sidepaths and trails will also help get people on their bikes if the trails help connect them with where they need to go. Omaha's plan to connect the Field Club trail with the Keystone is an example of this. We need more east-west connectors, for sure.

Finally, I think that public service announcements and similar positive marketing may encourage more people to trade in four wheels for two. As recent studies and news reports show, the more cyclists on the roads, the safer it is for all.

dale said...

A couple things will keep us from ever being like Copenhagen, Amseterdam, and other great biking cities - hills and extreme weather. Climate - biking cities rarely go much below freezing in the winter nor above 80 in the summer. This cool weather we've been having the last couple of weeks is just below the summer average of 72 in Copenhagen. Couple moderate weather with flat land and people can bike easily to work, stores, etc., in regular clothes without a hard effort and sweat, i.e. biking is comfortable.

Bike lanes and paths will help, but they need to be put on E-W streets that are the flattest - Pacific, Leavenworth, Dodge, Cumming, Saddle Creek/NW Radial/Military, etc.

Another motivator to make cycling more popular is higher gasoline prices. Europe is double or more what we pay.

Retail zoning is pretty good around me - there are 2 Super Targets, Bakers, Walmart, Walgreens, HyVee, Home Depot, Lowes, and many restarunts within 3 miles of my house. This is a bikeable distance but you need to pick your routes well. I have a couple bike paths to use but don't really need bike lanes to get through neighborhoods.

Yet even with these convinences, I have to force myself to bike instead of drive. Motivation from high fuel costs will motivate people to bike more than anything else. Voluntary motivation comes from changing goals such as: to simplify life, slow down, smaller carbon footprint, better fitness, etc., are necessary to change one's lifestyle from car centric to bicycle centric. A better infrastructure will not change the number of bikers without motivation (from within or without) to use the infrastructure.

I hope I'm wrong and the ped bridge and painting Leavenworth, etc. will increase the number of commuting bikers enough to encourage the powers that be to install other infrastructure enhancments.

dale said...

Having wrote the above, Minneapolis has a reputation as a bicycle friendly community with weather similar to ours. We should look at what they are doing.

Zakkaliciousness said...

There are enduring myths about why people ride bicycles in great numbers in Denmark and Holland - among them are the 'flat terrain' and 'temperate weather' myths.

Sure, it's easier, but it's worth remembering that 100 million Europeans ride their bike each day, according to the European Cyclists' Federation.

Many cities are far from flat or temperate and they still have much higher bike usage rates than North American cities.

Hilly, snowy Trondheim, Norway [8% trips by bike]
Chilly Vasteraas, Sweden [33%]
Mountainous Berne and Basel in Switzerland [25%]
Hilly, windy Aarhus, Denmark [25%]

and many more.

It's all about the infrastructure. Creating safe bike lanes and placing the bicycle on an equal footing in the traffic. It's all about encouraging cycling and making it accessible to everyone, not just the sports/recreation crowd. A healthy bike culture is one where women feature prominently.

A good place to start is intra-neighbourhood bike lanes. Making short trips easier by bike than by car between densely populated areas. Bike paths for weekend use are nice, but they don't increase bike usage rates, as a rule.

There are many good ideas out there.

munsoned said...

I think it's also a cultural thing between the US and Europe. We demand everything now. Credit debt per household is ridiculous because we Americans would rather pay more for something over the long run, rather than save and wait.

So being that we want things to happen as quickly as possible, getting from one place to another has to be as easy and as soon as possible. Most people consider 5-10 miles over the speed limit to be the norm. I used to drive that way for years. Now, when I actually do drive, I find myself driving at a pace a few mph faster than my biking rate. I just like traveling slower.

Dale, I can see how having everything within 3 miles can make a huge difference. I live at 60th and Center, so I too have grocery stores and the mighty 72nd and Dodge area within riding distance. I don't like to admit it, but I've ridden to Chipotle to pick up some burritos more than once.

So my guess is, a cultural and structural change would have to happen to create a better biking community here. Structural just takes time and money. Cultural is a whole other ball of wax. Maybe it would take something like $7.00 gallon gas to really enact change. Even then, I'd say a call for highly fuel efficient vehicles is more probable than a different method of travel in the US. We invented the auto, and by George, we'll die with it.

Biker Bob said...

Higher (bring on the $10 mark)gas prices.
Better cycling infrastructure.
Better bike/car equal legal treatment
Better health propaganda
Financial benefits for bike commuting

Those are great ways to help increase cycling. The cultural change will take time, but I think it can be done as well.

Zak has a great point, even the cold hilly cities can have a very strong bike culture. But it takes some forward thinking and planning to bring it about. Activate Omaha is doing some of that. The rest of us can help by getting involved in city planning, staying involved with blogs and such during the year, or staying on the roads year round so biking doesn't drop off the radar every winter.

No one person can do it, since we all ebb and flow with various interests, but pitch in when your interest is high and get others to do that same, and we will make progress.

Biker Bob said...

OH yea... Zakkaliciousness welcome to the Omaha-Commute blog. How are things in Copenhagen. I'm really enjoying your photography.

Which brings up another point. A picture is worth a thousand words. So pictures that capture the joy and beauty of commuting may be helpful in encouraging people to consider bike commuting. I carry a camera on most of my commutes for just that reason. If you see something on your commute that is interesting, you can always snap a picture and send it to me at underdahill (thatatthing) google (dot) com and I'll try to post it here.

Scott Redd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scott Redd said...

Hey Munson... I live near 50th and Grover, so I bet a lot of our bike errand destinations are the same. We live about 1.7 miles from the Keystone, so we'll often hit that trail (we call it our bike interstate highway) and then that opens up lots of shopping destinations in the 72nd and Dodge area. Unfortunately, the Trek store is only four miles from our home, and I seem compelled to go in there and buy stuff.

Like you, we'll grab burritos and tacos at Chipotle, but more often, Qdoba, since they have soup and it's a stone's throw from the trail. Also, we can bribe our daughter to ride by going to Qdoba and Borders.

More to the point of your comment and Dale's comment, we have to make the conscious decision to choose the bike over the car. One way is to shop locally, even if that means changing habits. For example, though I prefer to shop at the Hy-Vee at 51st and Center two miles away (plus they have a bike rack!), the Bag and Save is only one-half mile. That's an easy walk, and an even easier bike ride. The Bag and Save selection is limited, but I enjoy supporting my local neighborhood market.

There's also virtually no elevation difference on the short Bag and Save ride, unlike the Hy-Vee ride, but that's the lazy in me talking. :)

David Hembrow said...

I have to agree with what Zakkaliciousness said.

Here in Assen on an average day, each person in this city makes 1.2 journeys by bike.

Temperatures in the last year year have ranged from -6 C to about 35 C on the hottest. That's 21 F to 95 F. I've a video which shows how even on the coldest days there were plenty of bikes. On the hottest days, everyone cycled to the beach...

It really is all about the infrastructure. Make cycling into a pleasant experience and people will actually want to do it.

My blog is an attempt to explain why it works so well here.