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More bikes take to the streets
Skyrocketing gas prices have resulted in a sudden glut of bicycle commuters on the road, reports the Christian Science Monitor, not just in metropolitan areas, but also in places like Louisville, Ky., and Charlotte, N.C.
The sudden surge of two-wheelers is also causing rising tensions among drivers who are unaccustomed to sharing their streets—and herding cyclists to traffic safety classes.
"I'm getting hammered by mayors asking, 'What are you doing about all these new bikers on the street and nobody knows the rules of the road?' " Robert Raburn, executive director of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition in Oakland, tells the newspaper.
The Christian Science Monitor did some number crunching to reveal the growing trend toward bike commuting this year:
• Bike count tallies showed an increase of 30 percent over last year on San Francisco's Market Street, 44 percent over 2006 levels at the intersection of Broad and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, and 378 percent from five years ago on Milwaukee Ave. in Chicago.
• New bikers are maxing out the capacity of transit systems across the country. Bikers boarding buses in Houston rose from 1,510 in April to 3,624 in June, according to the League of American Bicyclists, which also reports that Charlotte's bike-on-bus boardings have reached an all-time record, surging 30 percent this June from a year ago. On San Francisco's regional CalTrain, a quarter of rush hour trains surveyed in September "bumped" bikers because onboard racks had reached capacity.
• In Denver, this year's 'Bike to Work Day' drew 35,000 bikers, up 43 percent over last year.
More bikes = improved bike infrastructure
With the rise of bike commuters, some cities are making significant investments in bike infrastructure. The Bay Area's Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), for instance, recently approved $1 billion in funding for a regional bike network.
Meanwhile, Louisville is constructing a 100-mile hiking and biking trail it's calling the Louisville Loop. Congress is also considering a bike commuter act that would allow tax deductions like those for people who take mass transit.
Another scheme some cities are adopting: The painting of "sharrows," a symbol on road surfaces meant to remind drivers that cyclists share the roads, too. More controversial, however, is the "Idaho stop" rule—which allows cyclists to treat red lights like stop signs—that the MTC is thinking of implementing. ::Christian Science Monitor
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