Friday, June 18, 2010

Creating A Bike Friendly City

Copenhagen figured out how to do it. Watch, from Current TV:

Copenhagen is renowned for being a bike-friendly city. This is a new thing; when I lived in Copenhagen back in the 1980s, bicycles were rarely used for commuting. People might ride their bikes to the train station, but you didn't see bicycles in the city center like you do now and you most certainly would not have biked from the suburbs into the city. It just wasn't done. Copenhagen created this bike culture in the past 25 years. It did so by creating a bicycle infrastructure: dedicated bike lanes and bike bridges, timed traffic lights, etc.

Here in Nashville traffic is one of our most serious issues. The interstates are jammed at rush hour and inside the city our neighborhoods are darned near impossible to navigate. Just try getting through Green Hills at lunchtime, I dare you. The solution our brilliant nincompoops at TDOT have come up with? Widening roads, adding a center turn lane on Hillsboro Pike, and making it completely impossible for a bike lane ever to be added to what is a major thoroughfare. Thanks a lot, idiots.

I own a bicycle but it gets precious little use, despite the fact that we live easy biking distance to grocery stores and other services. The reason is that you are literally putting your life in your hands to ride a bike in this city. I've been run off the road more than once, and I know people who have been seriously injured by careless drivers. Two months ago driving down Blakemore I saw an SUV crush a bicycle on purpose, then speed away as the rider (who had been knocked down but was OK) was left screaming blooding murder at the top of his lungs.

It's a damn shame that we have this backwards attitude because honestly, you cannot pave enough roadway to hold all the cars. That's like bailing the Queen Mary with a thimble. The only solution is to reduce the number of cars on the road. One way to do that is to encourage pedestrian and bike traffic, and the only way that will work is by making it safer for people to get around town in ways that don't involve a car.