The Bicycling Community Is Becoming a Political Force to Be Reckoned With -- And That's Great News
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The number of Americans who commute primarily by bike leaped 43 percent since 2000 according to census data. The number of overall bike trips rose 25 percent.
But for those numbers to keep climbing—and the benefits for all Americans to continue accumulating—people need to feel safer on their bikes. Seventy-one percent of all Americans report that they would like to bike more than they do now, according to U.S. Highway Safety Administration data. But many of them fear riding on busy streets with speeding traffic.
Sharing is the best way to help these people feel safer. By historical tradition and legal decree, streets are not for the exclusive use of moving and parked cars. They are shared space belonging to everyone.
The Green Lane Project, which will launch in May, is an initiative to reclaim a bit of streets for bicyclists. The goal is to pioneer 21st century streets in six cities where bike lanes on major routes will be protected from heavy traffic by curbs, posts, parked cars or paint. This could do for bicyclists what asphalt roads did for cars a century ago.
But it’s important to remember that biking and walking are not strictly an urban way to get around. A new report from the Rails to Trails Conservancy(which I helped write) shows that biking and walking in rural America is far more widespread than most people realize.
The report cites data from the U.S. Department of Transportation showing that rural Americans bike only slightly less than their urban counterparts, and much more than people living in newer suburbs. Here are two particularly surprising findings.
- In towns of 10,000 to 50,000, a higher percentage of overall trips are made by bike than in urban centers.
- In towns of 2500-10,000 twice as many work trips are made by bike than in urban centers.
Federal funding of biking and walking improvements play an important role in helping rural communities attract and retain young people, families and businesses.
As the CEO of the Billings (Montana) Chamber of Commerce John Brewer told a Congressional hearing last year. “Talented people are moving to Billings in large part because of our trail system that creates the quality of life they are expecting….Trails are no longer viewed as community amenities; they’re viewed as essential infrastructure for business recruitment.”
This story is adapted from remarks Jay Walljasper gave at the National Bike Summit in Washington, D.C. on March 21.
Jay Walljasper is editor of OnTheCommons.org, a news and culture website devoted to recognizing the importance of the commons -- those things that belong to all of us -- in modern life.