How can we get more people on to bikes?

harbord bike lane
CC BY 2.0 Harbord Street, Toronto/ Lloyd Alter

In London, which is not a cyclist's paradise by any means, it is now official policy that Cycling is now mass transport and must be treated as such. In most of America, cycling is recreational preferably done as far from transportation networks as possible. In fact, the planners and the politicians make it almost impossible to do safely so almost nobody does, less than 1 percent of commuters overall. Hardly anyone walks either; in fact, 85 percent of us drive to work alone in our cars, while less that 4 percent cycle or walk.

Yet everyone knows what a difference it would make for congestion, health, and pollution if more people did. Over on VOX, Joseph Stromberg writes yet another terrific article on transportation, Fewer than 4% of Americans walk or bike to work. Here's how to change that. He lists six things that could be done to transform our cities to make non-motorized travel safer and easier, many of which have been covered in TreeHugger:

treehugger week in pictures

1) Stop building cul-de-sacs and bring back the grid

Alas, that's hard to do with the ones already built, and many municipalities are changing their planning regulations to eliminate them, and promote interconnected streets. But as Stromberg notes,

Gridded streets let pedestrians or cyclists travel the same distance and reach a much greater number of destinations than cul-de-sacs or other sorts of street designs with fewer interconnections and intersections.

More in TreeHugger on this: The End of the Cul-de-Sac is Nigh
End of the Road for the Cul-de-sac

TOD report© ITDP

2) Change zoning rules to allow for density and mixed-use

This is absolutely key, you need density to support transit, to have enough customers to support stores that can serve those in walking distance. This has been stressed by writers we follow, from Kaid Benfield to Steve Mouzon to Chuck Wolfe. Stromberg notes:

A study of San Francisco neighborhoods, for instance, found that those with higher levels of density and mixed uses saw much greater numbers of people using nonmotorized transport.

But you could do that study anywhere in North America and come up with the same result. When you make it hard to drive and easy to walk or cycle, people do it. Thats why his next two points matter; Eliminate parking requirements to increase density and reduce the incentive to drive. (See There's No Such Thing As Free Parking) Also Put roads on a diet and make lanes narrower - Jeff Speck has been making this case, telling us to "make "10 not 12!" a new mantra for saving our cities and towns."

bike lanesCity of Toronto bike lanes are a disconnected mess/Public Domain

Finally, we have to Build protected bike lanes and Connect bike lanes to create usable routes. Even where cities invest in bike lanes, there are disconnected and inconsistent. Stromberg finds a great analogy:

Martha Roskowski of People for Bikes has compared this to a ski resort at which, to get down the mountain, every skier had to take ultra-difficult black diamond runs at one point or another. It doesn't matter if they can take easier green circles and blue squares to start out if they have to surmount a mogul-filled black diamond to get to the bottom.

Read all of Joseph Stromberg's article here, and his whole wonderful series on transportation here. He really is one of the most interesting writers on the subject right now.

How can we get more people on to bikes?
Here are a few ideas that might work.

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