I just finished watching the latest installment of HBO’s Real Sports. Urban bike riding in the U.S was a featured segment. While it looks great, being a urban biker scares me. Bike lanes and bike sharing are spreading across the country and many city officials are trying to find a balance for bikers and vehicle drivers to coexist peacefully. The segment highlighted several accidents in which bikers were killed by vehicles and pedestrians were killed by bikers. No one was ever charged or convicted in those cases, which just adds to the devastation felt by the victims’ families.
Gumbel and crew traveled to Denmark, where riding one’s bike is part of the daily routine. The post war decades brought automobiles and congestion and the people revolted, bringing about the “bike culture”.
Next stop was Amsterdam, where 60% of the population used bicycles for transportation. However, so many people ride bikes, that parking garages and barges are used for the bicycles of commuters.
The show concluded that as the U.S’s population grows, vehicle congestion will worsen, and solutions being researched to incorporate more bicycling to get around. Many experts noted that most Americans see riding a bicycle a recreational activity and not a daily transportation option.
Here’s my take-
I live and drive in Chicago. I don’t want to be anywhere on the streets on a bike. There are just a handful of neighborhoods where one could bike from home to stores and transit links without encountering major arteries carrying dense and fast moving traffic. And retrofitting some streets here to add bike lanes have rubbed me the wrong way. As a driver, nothing good can come from reducing a two-lane street to one lane, but that’s the only way. However, new, Master-planned communities can really shine from good planning.
I applaud the brave souls who do take to the streets, but it just does not feel safe enough for me yet. I hope things do change for those like myself and for those who have not thought about biking as an option at all.