Lizzy Bennett pens an ode to bike commuting and offers some interesting statistics:
It could be the rise of unemployment, the race to lower carbon emissions, or something in the water, but urban cycling is on the rise the United States. From 2006 – 2009, New York City built 200 miles of bike lanes and saw a 45% increase in commuter cycling. During the same time period, San Francisco built zero bike lanes and saw a 53% increase in bike commuting. Clearly infrastructure isn’t keeping folks off their bikes; even people in Los Angeles are bike commuting! And organizations like Peopleforbikes.org are helping folks realize the magic of bike commuting.
I’m not surprised by the infrastructure finding here. The most important infrastructure for making city streets bike friendly is to have other cyclists on the streets. Obviously, if a city has a lot of people riding bikes then it only makes sense to build infrastructure for them, but that’s different from saying the infrastructure will create the cyclists.
In policy terms, I’d say the stuff that really matters for cycling is the big picture stuff. A bicycle has a lot of drawbacks relative to a car. Its main advantages are that it’s cheaper to buy, cheaper to operate, and smaller to store. Carbon taxes, fewer restrictions on high-density building, and less stringent regulatory parking mandates would make bicycling a more attractive transportation mode. And the existence of more cyclists on the road would, further, make bicycling a more attractive transportation mode.