Following last weeks highlights of New York City’s bike situation, a few readers suggested we answer the question:
It”s funny when you hear the names that different classess of bikes have earned over the years – the Urban Bike, the City Bike, the Portland Bike, the Philadelphia Cruiser, the Boston City Bike, or the Dutchie – despite the fact that the U.S. is not the most bike-friendly nation in the world. Far from it. Americans love their cars. It’s status and ease and even with rising gas prices, it only brings us together to have a common ground to complain about.
The bike is a status symbol to twelve year-olds who have posters of cars they yearn to own plastered on their bedroom walls. Only in the movie, “Breaking Away” did Dennis Christopher make bike posters acceptable and riding one exciting. Even Dennis Quaid showed that smokers could ride and look sexy on a bike!
While it seems like America is just taking heed of this recent resurgence in urban bicycle culture, other urban areas the world over have long been bicycle-friendly cities through their urban planning. Over 50% of daily commutes in the Netherlands are via a commuter bike. Recently, New York City added 250 miles of bike lanes, only to come up against complaints and lawsuits. If ever a U.S. city needed to reduce a carbon footprint, it’s NYC! L.A. would be next but Mercedes and BMW have yet to make a chauffeur-driven bike.
Portland, which is the only U.S. city to be highlighted as one of the top ten global cities that are bicycle friendly, like most cities on the West Coast of the United States, has various neighborhoods that are connected through roads that act like arteries. Portland has gone a different route from many cities; by creating bicycle paths that connect the urban neighborhoods, a rider can bypass auto commuters altogether and, as seen in bike path planning in Europe as well as the recent debacle in NYC, that is the key to creating a safe, commuter bike friendly city. Portland also offers low-cost commuter bikes to the city’s less fortunate residents. These urban bikes come complete with a helmet, lock, pump, maps, and rain gear, a necessity in the Pacific Northwest. Portland has achieved a commuter bike rate of nearly 9% – - a large number for the car-centric States and a culture of “bigger is better.” With over 260 miles of trails and paths, look to Portland to lead the U.S. as the healthiest city.
No matter your city, you can still enjoy the health and economic benefits of biking. Even if there’s no bike named after your city or town, get a nice Hybrid Bike, City Bike or Commuter Bike and soon, when enough of your jealous neighbors follow suit, you will have a name for your type of bike. Just promise that if you live in Springfield, you’ll name your commuter bike appropriately – “The Homer!”