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Cycling Is Key to Safer, Healthier, More Vital Cities (citylab.com)
278 points by jseliger 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 363 comments

A 2 key points about well designed bike lanes that aren't bought up enough are:

1. raised / structural separation between the road and bikes path.

2. bike paths can be used for just about anything that is not a car/motorbike or a pedestrian. Skaters, skate boarders, mopeds and bikes can all share a common separated path way.

I have tried biking in Boston and it is a nightmare. Bike Lanes marked on the road are taken as suggestions by cars, rather than a proper space for bikes. Taking the side of the road causes cars to pass me too closely and taking a lane draws verbal abuse ( happened 3 times in 1 month...then I stopped). Technically Boston suburbs allow bikes to ride on empty sidewalks, but that draws silent stares and again occasional verbal abuse.

In addition to that , everyone from pedestrians to car owners seem to be complaining about the new bird bike scooters and boosted boards. With major ride sharing companies trying to move to 2 wheelers and community shared biking hubs becoming a thing, giving all the problem children their own space would be an excellent solution.

All of these alternate means of transportation run at about the same speed and can't cause fatal damage on collision. Definitively separating them from cars should significantly improve safety.

IMO, biking might be the solution that allows for zoning laws to be lax, as increased density wouldn't affect traffic as adversely. The increased density should also cut commute times. Aren't those literally the 2 biggest complaints about tech hubs in US ? The decreased pollution and healthcare benefits just the cherry on top.

I'd add that a significantly under-discussed element of safe biking infrastructure is safer intersections. My city has lots of bike lanes that are sufficiently wide (and many that aren't) and no consideration all at for how a cyclist is supposed to safely traverse an intersection. My commute requires me to cross several lanes of traffic to get from the bike lane to the left turn lane on a road where cars go ~40mph - there's no way to do that without a significant risk of getting clobbered. That's to say nothing of the potential for someone hooking right through me when I go straight at an intersection as apparently no one checks their side mirror before turning.

Unfortunately even cities that consider biking infrastructure often seem to ignore how to connect bike lanes in a reasonably safe way. The only city I've seen that does this is Portland, OR and they make heavy use of separated paths to do so.

> no consideration all at for how a cyclist is supposed to safely traverse an intersection.

This is because they are designed by non-cyclists who are thinking purely of recreational use: someone casually dawdling their way to work on a sunny day three times a year.

"Oh, well, here of course they will dismount and then use the crosswalk ... that's what I'd do!"

The best practice that I'm aware of is:

    * Dismount and walk the bike across the cross-walk, as a pedestrian.
IMO we've engineered intersections all wrong to begin with. There shouldn't even be cross-walks there (they should be mid-block dedicated services, placed where pedestrians WANT to cross and __VERY CLEARLY__ marked as existing; not the dinky lights many cities go for (Seattle comes to mind)).

I don't know how to handle bikes and turns at an intersection, separation of level would be far more ideal.

If we actually want to encourage people to bike instead of driving, they need to be able to cover reasonable distances in a car-comparable amount of time. Expecting cyclists to dismount every block to cross on foot in a crosswalk is not the way to achieve this goal.

This is how to do it: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2014/02/23/junction-desig...

Requiring dismounting would be the way to discourage cycling.

Separation of levels can work, too, but is more expensive and takes more room. Examples at https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/tag/tunnel/ and https://vimeo.com/71511991

This is what I was taught when I was a kid and it's really dumb.

1. Bikes can't go on sidewalks, so you're already screwed one way or another.

2. It's a huge hassle to get off and on at every intersection.

Of course there's a problem with the bike acting like a vehicle too, even if it can keep up with traffic. Stoplight sensors don't register bikes so you end up waiting for a car to show up so it can trigger the sensor and change the light.

> Stoplight sensors don't register bikes

If you're a cyclist and stopped on a red, waiting for it to change, you're seriously breaking ranks. :)

I mostly just bolt for it when the coast is clear.

There are places where I wait, but if it's keyed to a sensor coil, I'm definitely not waiting for a vehicle to arrive.

> Stoplight sensors don't register bikes so you end up waiting for a car to show up so it can trigger the sensor and change the light.

Camera based sensors are far better than the induction loops used on older installations in my experience. Replacing the traffic light with a roundabout is even better :)

I agree entirely on the crosswalks. Around here the pedestrian signal comes on at the same time as the left turn signal so that pedestrians and drivers get to fight for space on the crosswalk.

This makes crossing with the bike on the crosswalk even more inconvenient than it would otherwise be on the bike, which as the other poster pointed out, slows one down considerably. Maybe separation of level is the right answer. Bike boxes, painted areas that let cyclists cross lanes in front of stopped traffic, may work but only if the intersection is adapted for them, otherwise they're just yet more deceptive deathlures.

> I don't know how to handle bikes and turns at an intersection

With regard to right turns, the easiest situation, though not feasible everywhere, is a dedicated right turn bay. Cyclist going right sticks to the curb. Cyclist going straight goes between the right turn bay and the straight lane.

The best way to do left turns asa cyclist is a hook turn. Go straight across, stop at the corner, then turn. Effectively making the turn two straight lines. That's how we're taught to do it in most European countries, to avoid having to cross lanes of car traffic.

Bike paths used by pedestrians are "mixed use trails" that are basically for recreational use. Someone cycling with a purpose to get somewhere, and especially if they have good physical ability from doing a lot of cycling, will tend to stay away from such. Doing your regular 35-40 km/h on these is crazy, and if you can go fast, why would you use a path where you can't do that.

While these trails are nice (obviously, we need recreational spaces), they don't do anything for congestion or commuting.

Agreed -- many of the shared paths have low 10-15mph speed limits for pedestrian safety which is fine for a recreational cyclist, but for someone going to work, 20mph on the flats is doable by a reasonably fit cyclist.

When there's a road next to a mixed-use path, I'll usually take the road since it's safer and easier than sharing with the pedestrian traffic.

A sub 3 mile commute at 5-10 MPH is not that bad. You don't need a shower or change of clothes etc.

So it's more about commute distance than a pure question of speed.

Though a sub 3 mile commute is also easy to serve with transit.

I have a 12 mile bike commute. The bus is an option, but it only runs once an hour.

A sub-3-mile commute is walkable.

Barely -- that's an hour long walk for most people. Given the choice between walking and biking for 3 miles, I'd bike. I used to have a 2.5 mile commute that I did by bike. I'd occasionally walk, but didn't normally want to spend that much time.

I'd use a push scooter up to 5 miles if it's convenient. One can fold it and take it on a bus or train.

Runnable: 5 km ~ 25 mins

8 minute miles with a backpack with a laptop and a change of clothes? Perhaps for some people, but not everyone.

I think saying they don't do anything for commuting is a bit extreme. Not all bike commuters are also serious cyclists. For many commuters, a mix use trail is far better than a road.

I used to live off of a mix use trail and could ride my bike on it to work. I now have to ride on the street, and given the choice I'd take the trail any day.

For me it depends on which route is shorter and has less inconvenience. Where I live, there's a trail about 1.5 miles long that I can ride to get to work. When it was first paved, I started riding on it since it was a shorter route to work compared to taking the roads there.

After a while, they put up gates on the trail where it crossed an access road. These gates required that cyclists dismount, walk their bike around the offset bollards while crouching to go under the gate arms, cross the access road, and repeat the process when getting to the gate on the other side. After that, I just started riding on the road again.

I think the problem is Boston is that there aren't actual bike lanes-- they just painted some new symbols on the already existing roads that were designed for cars and called it a day. Everyone would benefit from separated bike lanes, either raised up or with the white cones. It never made sense to me that a whole line of traffic should have to slow down to 12-15mph because one person wants to ride their bike. Cars and bikes mixed into the same space just seems to create chaos.

Yeah that's the thing that annoys motorists (or at least what annoys me) -- bikes that you can't safely pass. Any time you have vehicles with greatly differing speeds sharing the same lane, it's unsafe.

What about lanes on interstate highways on upgrades that mix 40 mph truck traffic with 70 to 80 mph car traffic?

Those can be unsafe, but trucks almost always keep to the right lane if they can't maintain the speed limit. And long grades will often have an extra lane on the right for slow vehicles. Either way, it allows safe passing on the left, as all interstates are at least two lanes wide.

How does that differ from a city street with multiple lanes?

You're making the implicit assumption that people riding their bikes on the road are just doing it for recreation instead of doing it for transportation.

I'd cycle to work, and many other places, if there was a physical barrier in place for bike lanes. I have been hit driving often enough to not want to try my luck cycling.

The plastic white posts are better than nothing, but still not enough IMO.

Maybe I am just not getting it, but I don't love the physical barrier in bike lanes. When there is some obstruction (trash, a pothole, etc) in the bike lane I can't get out of the way.

I like the white posts for this reason. I can still get out, but cars will likely not get in (unless they're completely out of control in which case they'd probably hop a small curb as well).

If it's a true old school style moped (small engine/electric motor with pedals) that's probably fine, but something like a vespa or small motorcycle should be in a separate area.

Yeah. I meant something along the lines of a low powered scooter, than a proper Vespa.

I'd say anything above 50cc is probably off limits.

If the moped's engine is on, it's motorcycle.

2. bike paths can be used for just about anything that is not a car/motorbike or a pedestrian. Skaters, skate boarders, mopeds and bikes can all share a common separated path way.

I don't agree -- skaters, skate boarders, mopeds and bikes all travel at different speeds and have different styles of locomotion - in particular, skaters and boarders tend to swerve back and forth across the lane, making passing difficult, while a 30mph moped is a hazard to 15mph cyclists -- even 20mph eBikes can be a challenge.

In Minneapolis some of our streets have these white posts stuck inbetween the car lane and bike lane. They mostly solve the problem of cars drifting into the bike lane.


> Taking the side of the road causes cars to pass me too closely and taking a lane draws verbal abuse

Close passes are a safety issue; verbal abuse is not.

I agree that cycling in Boston is absolutely terrifying; I tried it for a few weeks and then gave up. Literally every single cyclist I know has gotten into at least one serious accident over the last 5 years in the city. While it is true that separated bike lanes would solve a lot of the alternative commuting problems in Boston, the problem is we simply don't have enough room for them across large swaths of the city and Cambridge / Somerville . I would suspect that the only way we could reasonably achieve separation across most of the city / outlying cities is if we totally banned on street parking which is a nonstarter to a majority of residents and commuters.

A city that is bike-friendly is good, but a city that is walking-friendly is better. The bicycle is a great way to exceed "walking distance", but why should that even be necessary in day-to-day life? It is easily possible to build a neighbourhood where three generations of a family can live, work, attend school, shop, and more within walking distance. Walking is the simplest, most universal, and most natural mode of human transportation. All it requires is a compact pattern of development.

Walking has low requirements for infrastructure. An uneven sidewalk is no problem. An unpaved trail through the woods is fine for most people. I have seen people posthole through blizzards in a walkable neighbourhood when nobody could bicycle or drive a car.

For the individual, there is no mechanical equipment to maintain, no parking spot to find; they just need some decent footwear.

More people can walk than can/will ride a bike. Many old people avoid biking due to poor balance and strength, but can walk without issue. People that cannot walk, such as people in wheelchairs, also benefit from the short distances between destinations. The blind can walk, but cannot ride a bike.

> The bicycle is a great way to exceed "walking distance", but why should that even be necessary in day-to-day life?

Uh... because I want to visit friends? Go see a show? Explore? Take a job that's not immediately next door? There are a million reasons why.

You know what cities were insanely walkable? The endless concrete enclaves of Khrushchyovkas in the USSR. Walkable does not mean pleasant.

Biking isn't just a means of transportation, it's also a means of recreation - on weekends I bike to get outside the city, tree lined country roads make for a nice relaxing ride.

Key word: "necessary"

In a walkable environment you can still make longer trips using other modes.

I can't speak to the cities of the USSR, but your "counter-example" is meaningless regardless.

More people can walk than can/will ride a bike. Many old people avoid biking due to poor balance and strength, but can walk without issue.

Biking allows you to move without moving your full body weight across your for and ankle. Bicycles are great for people with lower body joint issues.

Three wheelers work great for people with balance issues.

Tokyo is a testament to the power of bicycles to increase mobility for all ages. I agree with you, but I also recognize that bikes can be better for many people than walking, plus they extend the practical range significantly.

Tokyo is a good example of a city that is very walkable, but it is also very bikeable, and has top-tier transit, and you can even own a car. The same cannot be said for places that are planned to exclude walking simply based on the distance between destinations.

Not to mention if your city works well for bikes it tends to also work well for mobility scooters and wheelchairs.

What do you consider walkable range? I bike five miles to work. But I find walking more than about a quarter mile with two day's groceries to be very unpleasant in the heat.

Maybe taking a backpack would do the trick. But loading up my bike, or my bike plus a trailer, is far more pleasant for all but the shortest distances.

Maybe I've just not experienced it yet, but it's hard to fathom every hardware store, grocery store, bar, restaurant, workplace, school, city rec center, post office, etc that I would ever really want to visit could reasonably fit into a quarter mile square.

I agree with you, but it's significantly harder to design a city where everything you need, including jobs for you and your spouse is within a kilometer or two. Bicycles increase effective range by a factor six or so. Paired with good public transport you can reach any point in a normal city within forty minutes.

Expecting most people to work within walking distance doesn't seem realistic except for those with minimally specialized skills. I mean if you are lucky, sure, and it is easier if you stick with the same employer for your entire career.

Unless you are talking telecommuting or the like.

I live 12 miles from work. I live closer to work than 75% of my colleagues. Some live 30+ miles away.

The bars and hangouts my friends visit are all over town. And for the things nearby: Would I rather spend an hour walking 5 miles to a park or restaurant, or 12 minutes with good bike lanes?

In the south, you don't want to stay out long unless you're ready to sweat. 10 minutes at a casual biking pace is several miles, 10 minutes walking is a mile, maybe, and with less wind for the energy expended.

I hazard a guess that you're from a northern coastal area, or Europe.

>I live 12 miles from work. I live closer to work than 75% of my colleagues. Some live 30+ miles away.

That arrangement precludes walking as a practical form of transportation. Build things closer together. Your typical destination could be 12 minutes away on foot, not an hour. When you want to travel to something that is an hour's walk away, you can bike instead. Bikes work fine in places that are walking-scale. Walking doesn't work in places that are biking-scale.

Not sure what else to say about the temperature. The design of a place can be altered to make it more bearable, like having plentiful street trees and awnings for shade. In the end, some people cannot bring themselves to exist outside of artificial cooling and heating. It's largely a cultural thing. People walk in other very hot places, and in other very cold places. Dress for the weather, endure some discomfort, and take some judgement from the weaker people.

That says low density than anything else.

At 25k people per km^2 you get 200 thousand people within 1 mile radius and 0.8 million people within 2 mile walking distance. That transforms most US population centers into tiny little walk-able islands.

Public transit can spread things out, but lower density is a real trade-off.

In most cities, especially in America, there's a vicious cycle: 0) Cycling is dangerous because there are too many vehicles on the road 1) There are so many vehicles on the road because everyone knows it's dangerous to cycle 2) Go to 0

Breaking out of that loop requires building safe infrastructure for cycling, like indestructable cement dividers between bike lanes and vehicle lanes or no-vehicles-allowed-in-<large area of city> days

And creating the infrastructure is wildly unpopular, because typically it involves either taking lanes away from cars, or slowing them down.

The initiative to reduce car-pedestrian collisions in LA has stopped because the drivers put pressure on politicians to stop slowing traffic down. Advocates are implying (and sometimes outright saying) that a few dozen deaths a year are an acceptable price to pay for a shorter commute. That's how far we are from solving this problem.

I have some hope for the movement that installs a bike path along a restored LA River! [1]

[1] https://www.railstotrails.org/trailblog/2017/october/02/bike...


The webpage for the LA River project: http://lariver.org/

The webpage for the LA River Trail: https://www.traillink.com/trail/los-angeles-river-trail/

I don't know LA enough to comment on that project, but my experience with similar projects is the bike trails created like that are a beautiful ride to nowhere. A great trip to take on a nice Saturday, but nobody will use them to get anywhere. (other than the bars that happen to be near the trail)

That's my experience as well. My town converted an abandoned rail line to a biking/walking trail. It does run through downtown, but beyond that it basically goes noplace very desirable. It gets recreational use by a small subset of the community, but it's not a big difference-maker in making cycling practical.

> Advocates are implying (and sometimes outright saying) that a few dozen deaths a year are an acceptable price to pay for a shorter commute.

Why are you implying that this is faulty reasoning? I mean traffic deaths would be virtually eliminated if the speed limit across the board was 15 mph. But I know I would rather drive 65 because the risk is worth it -- and over a large population that increase in risk turns into real tangible deaths. Same with any risky behavior that we all engage in every day.

Let's do the back of the napkin calculations, take Columbus Ohio as the example of an everycity. Columbus had in 2014 750,000 commuters and say your average person makes $25/hr ($55k annually).

Say you were able to shave on average 1 minute off their commute.

($25/hr) * (1hr/60m) * (1m) * (2 trips/work day) * (261 work days/yr) * (750,000 people/trip) = $163,125,000/yr

How does a few dozen lives compare to $163 million dollars of value? Is slowing down traffic worth it?

Theoretical/in-a-vacuum numbers like this always make me suspicious; it isn't as if workers would have $163m less at the end of a year any more than companies would have $163m less in accounts. That isn't how life works.

EVEN if it did - what if, as traffic were slowed and bike lanes and walking lanes were put in, commuter life improved? Society appreciated the new living space and they got healthier and spent less on fuel and cars? That new economies were enabled by new, healthier, cheaper forms of transport?

Also, self consciously trading other people’s lives for a few minutes a day is gross.

Assuming we're still going with 1 minute a day saved which was an intentionally low estimate we're still talking about 12 years worth of time saved over the course of a year. Those minutes add up.

It’s all BS because the people who are saying “this is fine” know they’ll never face the risks personally. It’s a psychopathic way of running a community, and anyone who advocates this way is incredibly suspicious to me.

Anyone that says “someone else should face high risk and cost for my convenience” is not to be trusted.

It seems weird to argue this when your average driver has a much much higher risk of death than the pedestrian even in the worst case. It's not so much drivers offloading risk to someone else but recognizing that when human life is involved our estimation of risk is blown out of proportion.

Not to mention the drivers who are offended by the simple act of spending a dollar on someone who is not them.

Cars kinda make people act like sociopaths.

There’s more to it than that. China was a cycling nation for most of the 20th century. They went from safe cycling nation, to now, where the most populous cities with good mass transit are clogged by cars and some motorcycles.

Affluence is a factor. Later on post-affluence may permit a social signal to again take up biking becuase it’s a choice of the upper middle class and become aspirational..

Agree--there's a sweet spot in distance and terrain as well. I bike to work every day because the round trip is a smooth 6 miles on dedicated bike paths. If this were any longer, or on the city streets with traffic lights every block, I'd think twice. Perhaps part of China's situation wasn't just the prestige of owning cars, but that most people's commute ranges expanded alongside the economy, beyond practical range for (pedal) bikes?

Yes, lengthening of commute distances, I’d venture are a factor. Weather might also factor in, depending on weather conditions (temps, precip, etc).

Yeah, I too wouldn't want to cycle in that level of air pollution. There's a sweet spot to hit for level of comfort & safety while cycling. I just think safety is the bigger issue, because even if the surrounding environment is comfortable and the terrain is flat and the weather is nice, if cars are making it unsafe to cycle, you're not going to cycle. And further, if we solve safety, that might actually help the environmental side of things too- less air pollution.

This aligns with my experience. I would bike (in SF and now NYC) but I don't because it feels too stressful and dangerous.

It annoys me how entrenched car culture is and how defensive some people get about it (and the amount of anger that is directed toward cyclists, many of whom legitimately fear for their lives on a daily basis).

Almost all the big cities I have been to in America have gotten way better with biking infrastructure in the past 10 years. When I went to school in philadelphia I can't remember a single bike lane or any form of infrastructure. Now in philadelpha there are over 200miles of bike lanes and other bike paths ( including buffered bike lanes !!!! https://bicyclecoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Bike...), and its easier to get around the city on bike then any other form of transportation.

There are so many vehicles on the road because everyone knows it's dangerous to cycle

I think it's deeper than that -- many people still view bikes as a kid's toy. Children bike, adults drive.

Agreed. It can be complicated and expensive, but there are a lot of viable proposals for how to approach bicycle-friendly road design ( such as this https://bikeeastbay.org/news/lafayette-commission-approves-c... )

I bought an e-bike. Because I can keep up with car traffic on most roads within the city, I am usually in the far right lane of the road and haven't had any problems really. You do have to be extra careful when changing lanes though.

The only problem I find is drivers don't expect you to be going so fast, especially up hill. I actually had a police car pull out right in front of me yesterday.

Yep. I either walk or hope that public transport's schedule aligns with mine.

My wife has been biking to work for a couple of years now (I work in an industrial zone - I don't trust the awareness of large truck drivers - so I don't follow suit) and it's really revitalized her joy for the city. Her commute has become something she loves. Because of this new found passion we've both bought new bikes, have started passing our weekends by experiencing the city from the view of a bicyclist, and while it can be frustrating finding a place where you're bike can go (our city has been building bike lanes and mixed use paths like crazy which help a great deal), it's been incredibly enjoyable to bike to those places one normally wouldn't go due to the car traffic and the pain of parking. Last weekend we put 100 km on over a days travel just getting out and enjoying the city, we've also taken day trips out to neighbouring municipalities to better explore.

The problem with all this of course is that it snowed here yesterday, and that's just the first sign of a trend that's going to last until April.

Oh, are you in Edmonton? I've been cycling 365 since the bad old days, and it's great to see all the new cyclists out all seasons with the city's commitment to keeping the paths clear of snow. Cycling in winter really isn't much more hardcore than walking outside in winter, you just gotta dress for it and slow down a little. Honestly I prefer cold to rain. I look at Vancouver's cyclists and think 'you guys are committed!'

Do you have Yeti/Sasquatch/Bigfoot/Harry and the Henderson's type bike? Or skinny tires and determination? The commute is about 45 minutes in the summer, so in the winter that's a long time to be cold.

Fixed gear, skinny tires. I'd probably be better off with cyclocross tires, but if you're optimizing for what you're going to be riding on 90% of the time, for winter commuting 90% of the time it's dry/wet pavement or hardpack snow. If the fatbikes give people confidence to ride in winter, more power to them, but personally I think it's overkill.

For the cold you've got to keep your extremities protected. I've got big dumb loose fitting mitts that slide on and off easily, and really warm socks. For my core, though, sweat is more an issue than freezing your ass off. If you dress to be cozy for the first 5 or 10 minutes of the ride, you'll be sweating once your blood gets flowing.

Is there a temperature at which you call it quits? Those -30 Edmonton days seem like good days to choose other ways to commute.

When you are working hard -30 isn't that cold. I haven't biked in that, but I have ice skated - a light sweater was all I needed to be comfortable. Exercise generates a lot of waste heat.

Below -25c° I start to waffle, but it only gets that cold for maybe 10 days out of the year.

The only cold problems I have with long distance biking in cold weather are caused by poor circulation in my hands and feet. I inevitably get too warm in my core within 15 minutes of commencing biking and start unzipping my outer layer. To keep my head warm, a balaclava and helmet suffices. It's the cold hands that are the worst though; even in thick gloves they still get too cold. I might have to start trying chemical warmers.

I have similar problems, but experimentation suggests that gloves can easily be too tight, esp. at the wrist, and that interferes with circulation. I pretty much always buy XXL gloves now.

There are gloves with electric heaters that you can charge via micro usb.

Thanks, I should look into that. Hands getting cold is really the biggest problem for me. Those same gloves work fine for warmth when I'm walking, but it's the holding onto handlebars that restricts circulation to the point where they get too cold.

Note that this is only really a problem below -5C or so; at "merely" freezing I can manage.

I love cycling. I grew up in my father's bicycle store and nearly 50 years later, he's still running the business and we've all worked in it at one time or another. I ride bikes around the neighborhood with my kids every day.

With that said, the U.S. is not the Netherlands. Like most Americans, I depend on my vehicle to get my kids to school and myself to the grocery store, which are 4-5 miles away from my house. This country is not predominately compact or dense. Cycling is not the de-facto best solution for every place. [1]

I wish we could stop bringing up Amsterdam with every conversation about bike lanes. I'm all for building bike paths over green space but I don't support the closing of busy traffic lanes to support a relatively small cycling commuter population. It creates traffic snarls, more pollution, and wastes a lot of people's time.


The purpose of building more infrastructure is to get more people on bikes, not just to placate the ones already on bikes. Getting more people on bikes will reduce traffic and pollution, not increase it.

The first step to improving bikeability is not closing traffic lanes, it's improving density. For example be taxing parking space appropriately. There is no good reason why supermarkets should be so far apart from each other in a city or why commutes need to be two hours long. Where I live I can reach five supermarkets in less than ten minutes on a bike.

If we insist on our limitations they will be ours to keep.

Better street design can improve traffic & flow with fewer lanes. My local muni has been converting super cramped four lane roads to two lanes plus turn lane and comfortable bike lanes. They are nicer to bike, nicer to drive, and back up less often (mostly due to the turn lane). Roundabouts on these roads have generally improved flow too.

None of these experience miles of gridlock like LA, but it's been enjoyable to see & experience.

I just saw a girl on TV saying she was doing 6km to go to work. Granted that's not possible for kids before middle school, but after that I think it's not far fetched.

Nice article, but I fear North Americans just don't care by and large.

I've had some passing involvement with bike advocacy and have been a bike commuter in Los Angeles for the past six years. My impression is that in the early 2000s, there was a flowering of bike advocacy and infrastructure.

But now we've reached the point of resistance where other transport modes are pushing back against any more consideration for bikes. In short, cycling is now big enough to matter but not big enough to win.

I've often wondered if there was an approach other than the incrementalist, go-along-get-along approach that most bike advocacy has taken. The electric scooter startups have changed the transport landscape more quickly than anything else I've seen.

I think cycling advocacy is alive and well, but the gains aren't as dramatic, because now they are incremental improvements to what has already been won. You are seeing miles and miles of shared bike lanes going up all across the US. I think back in the 2000's even that infrastructure was a pie in the sky dream. The jump to the next level of infrastructure hasn't taken off yet, but you are starting to see some cities actually invest in segregated bike lanes and bike highways. Since those changes require actual work and not just paint on the street I think they will be slower and take a lot more time, but I see them coming.

For instance, inside DC there was a number of dedicated bike lanes, and even a good number of segregated bike lanes. I could get all through the core of the city on a bike with relative safety, once you got out into the north Virginia suburbs the bike infrastructure turned into mostly painted lines, with a few notable trails and then by the time you hit the outer suburbs there was nothing, but they were starting to put painted lines out as far as Reston, VA ( 25mi outside the city )

Bike commuting growth has stopped/reversed in most places in the US in the last couple of years: https://usa.streetsblog.org/2017/09/14/bike-commuting-growth...

My worry is that there actually aren't enough people to use the bike infra to justify continued/increasing costs--or at least makes it easy to argue against. For example, there is a bike path next to a new light rail line in West LA (expo line for the curious). I used it to commute for ~1 year and the traffic I observed on it was very minimal considering the cost it must have taken to put in and maintain (lights at night too).

Yeah there are a couple bike hotspots like Portland and Minneapolis (maybe DC?) but outside that, the demand is minimal unfortunately.

DC was listed in that article as one of the places that didn't experience that trend so my anecdotal evidence is most likely biased. However I would be interested to see a similar survey done for 2017 and 2018 to see how electric bikes and scooters have changed things. I still see mostly normal bikes on my trips to work, but I have been seeing more and more e-bikes making the trip.

I’m a big proponent of bicycling, not only because of it’s health benefits but also because of city-design. Recently there was a poll taken place in my city which proposed reducing lanes to add more sidewalk and bike lanes to a few streets for the added commute time of around 1-2 minutes. As both a driver and a cyclist this is an acceptable trade off. Especially since the proposed streets had previously seen a lot of vehicle-pedestrian accidents.

I think an important part of having a more bikable city is that it leads to a more livable city. My bike ride to work takes me through the south-east part of town which was previously segregated. These areas aren’t well-suited to biking, but should be. If you are poor and your car breaks down you still have to have a way to get to work. A car is a hell of a lot more expensive then a bike or a bus.

The Dutch cycling culture is worthy of praise, but people frequently forget or ignore a key element of its success: Amsterdam is pancake flat. I live outside of Denver, and my neighborhood is very cycling friendly, but my 8-year old daughter can't make it up the hill on our street without walking.

I spent my summer holiday in Aarhus, Denmark this year. The city is half built on a massive hill, yet 25% of commuters cycle to work.

Flatness is not a pre-requisite for a cycling culture.

You're forgetting the "Dutch mountains", Amsterdam can be an extremely windy city. Yet it doesn't really seem to bother people.

There are many cities that are as flat as Amsterdam and have a similar climate but have a fraction of the cyclists.

Right. I don't think the flatness and climate are the sole reason for its success, but they're certainly a big contributor.

If you can't make it up the hill then you need a lower gear. Utility bikes are easily controllable even at walking pace. The bigger problem is wind. Headwinds can easily slow you down as much as hills, and crosswinds make the bike harder to control. Amsterdam has higher average wind speeds than Denver.

I see that you didn't mention tailwinds. Because, of course, they're a myth and don't actually exist.

I recall reading the meteorological explanation for why the wind changes direction on ocean cities. The net effect for me is that I'm nearly always going into a local headwind and it's quite horrible.

E-bikes solve that problem.

I wonder how a bike or even public transit is going to replace a car? 1) How am I supposed ro go to the beach with two kids, stuff for picnic and surfboards on a bike or even on a bus?!! 2) Public transit is all good, but have you ever been in a PEOPLE jam during rush hour in a subway? Because I had. And I will take SV traffic jam over it any day.

The truly bad things happen because of radicalism - it should not be bikes + public transit vs cars. It should be a healthy, safe mix of both.

It replaces a car for daily activities, not for road trips.

Have you ever seen what happens in a Tube strike in London? Gridlock like you wouldn't believe. I was cycling to work and I saw an ambulance stuck in traffic dead stopped with sirens blaring because there was no open space for any cars within earshot to move out of the way. There were tens of thousands of people walking to work along the A3 (Northern Line corridor) into the city like refugees because it was faster than car, cab or bus.

The point is, the transit capacity of a city with a dense transit network is orders of magnitude greater than the typical American city, and SF/SV is barely a notch better.

Yeah, I don't mind crazy packed subway if I don't carry more than a backpack. If I have to move a large box I won't be happy.

> 1) How am I supposed ro go to the beach with two kids, stuff for picnic and surfboards on a bike

Easy. With a trailer. My wife and I have two bike trailers for our 3 kids. The oldest will often ride her own bike (she is 5) and then when she gets tired, you can throw it in the back and she climbs in.

Another friend of mine has one of those stretched out e-bikes where he hauls his two kids around. Oh, and he sold his car in order to buy it.

> It should be a healthy, safe mix of both. This is true, but we are no where near the point of a "people jam" (or bike jam) in much of the US/Canada.

It doesn't have to totally replace cars. The ideal is to drop down from a 2 car household to a 1 car household and only use it for bigger errands and trips, or you drop down to a 0 car household and use the money you save on car payments, gas, and insurance to occasionally rent or carshare. The best is for biking/walking/transit to replace daily trips to/from places like work, dinner, downtown, the movies, the park, etc.

Right...I'm somewhat of a "militant" cyclist. I think it has the capacity to radically change how people get to and from work if we can shift people's perspectives regarding using them, and build protected bike lanes/highways/trails that reach all over and access public transportation.

I bike two miles to a train station downtown, and I take the train to a stop in a nearby city, bike two miles to work. Sometimes I bike all the way home (20 miles-ish) for a nice, convenient workout. I also get to work from home two days a week. I read books on the train, I have made great friends on the train. This is the best commute I have ever had, and I will miss it dearly if/when my situation changes.

That said, I can never go completely car free. My wife and I like to go hiking in the mountains or go to the coast with our dogs on the weekend. A car is the only way to get there with our pets.

Yup, our household dropped from 2 cars to 1. We bike & trailer the kid. It may not last forever, but it's worked out pretty well, with the car parked 20+ days a month but ready & willing for travel outside town.

Saved us tons of money, garage space, and if many families in our town did the same thing, traffic would completely evaporate. Yet everyone would still have access to a car for surfing & beach trips.

Maybe you should keep your car for the rare occasions where you actually need to transport a lot of stuff (you could rent a car if that happens infrequently enough) and not clog the roads every day when a bike and public transit could take you to the office just as quickly.

Personally, I actually commute to work by motorcycle (not sure why it isn’t more popular in CA). But, of course, like a bicycle, it is not for everyone.

Perception of risk is why. My wife has made it very clear that I’m a single man if I ever get a motorcycle.

Only perception? I have nothing against motorcycles, but the last time I saw stats, increased risk with respect to both cars and bycicles was quite real.

Perception of risk is what drives decisions. Actual risk drives outcomes.

People got along just fine before the car.

And heaven forbid that you have to interact with other people on public transit. How ever will you survive?

being forced into strangers’ armpits is not the kind of interaction I am looking forward to. Of course, “happens only during rush hours”. Sorry, but I actually lived in an Eastern European city and had to commute like that to work.

Yeah, I lived in Chicago for 6 years. You're being overly dramatic.

Public transportation in Chicago sucks. The blue line incredibly crowded, id rather not get stabbed or thrown on to the tracks on the red. Metra is pretty ok. Also cyclists in Chicago apparently are allowed to do whatever they want. Run red lights, clip pedestriansnon the the sidewalks.

While I would like to see chicago spend more in public transit dollars and improve overall safety, this is a ridiculous representation of what it’s like to use the El. I commuted via el exclusively for 6 years, and didn’t even own a car for 5, and I never saw or knew someone who saw what you’re describing.

If you want to let your life be controlled by the worst comment section on the local news site that’s fine, but don’t waste our time with your nonsense.

I have a friend that was recently pushed onto the tracks. It was not the first time this guy did it either. The blue line is just incredibly crowded but I wouldn't consider it dangerous. I'm sorry but the El sucks for a variety of reasons depending on the line, I don't own a car but I still avoid the El as much as possible. Those are my experiences, not some news comments.

In LA, the train goes right to long beach. You have your two kids carry picnic stuff; you may just want to rent a surfboard there.

*note, I lived in LA for 4 months w/o a car; It's a pain to fit a longboard in an UberXL.

In westside neighborhoods, it is not unusual to see people with modified beach cruiser bikes going to and from the beach. These have a surfboard rack that puts the board parallel to the bike. Basically two deep, foam-padded u-shaped brackets jutting out on one side of the frame. When carrying a board, it just shifts the center of gravity of the bike a bit in between the frame and the outboard cargo.

"1) How am I supposed ro go to the beach with two kids, stuff for picnic and surfboards on a bike or even on a bus?!!"

Do you honestly do this every day? No? Then don't bring that up. Use a car when it makes sense, and don't when you don't have to.

"2) Public transit is all good, but have you ever been in a PEOPLE jam during rush hour in a subway? Because I had. And I will take SV traffic jam over it any day."

Increase funding so you can increase the amount of trains. Or shift your commute a bit. Either way, I don't believe for a second that one would rather spend 3 hours driving each way.

"The truly bad things happen because of radicalism - it should not be bikes + public transit vs cars. It should be a healthy, safe mix of both."

It should be a mix. But people like you are turning it into an either/or battle. You're spreading so much FUD that cycling, walking, and public transit don't get any say.

Much like Lebron, i recall the days of my youth when i was old enough to start biking around town, 20/30 minutes or more away from home. Felt like a whole world out there and many great memories doing simple stuff like biking with a few friends to the nearest gas station or walgreens and pooling up a few bucks to buy candy and a drink.

This fascinates me, the days of near digital-free days. From today it feels empty, but I remember being quite happy (if not a lot happier then). We just enjoyed things differently.

I’m simply never going to support any policy framework that would require me to cycle in Chicago in the winter. I know it’s possible but I’m not doing it.

And we can talk about how maybe you should because it's better for you, but this brings up a larger issue: when it comes to how whole populations behave, comfort is a factor that can't be totally ignored.

Basically it creates a trade-off. Some percentage of people will decide one way and some the other way. This is going to affect adoption if you try to build a city around this idea.

Incidentally, there are also issues in hotter climates. Here in Texas, it hit 100°F (37.7°C) more than 50 days this summer. And it doesn't get cold at night. You can try to avoid the heat by biking to work early, but even at 6:00am, it might still be 80°F (26.6°C) and humid. So you will arrive sweaty, and if you don't do something about that, you will smell bad all day. (The ideal is if your office provides showers.) You're also probably going to end up taking two showers every day since you are sweaty when you get home.

^ This is precisely why I think biking is crazy.

Think of it this way: The more people you can convince to cycle, the fewer cars are ahead of you in a traffic jam.

Have you lived in Chicago during the winter? It gets quite cold and windy. I couldn't imagine willingly commuting there on bike even if adequate infrastructure existed.

Chicago in the winter is little different from Finland in the winter, and in the latter plenty of people commute by bike all winter. The discomfort of cycling in the cold is exaggerated; there is a way to dress appropriately, and then it is not a big deal.

Maybe not you, but there probably are at least some people who would if there were proper infrastructure.

If it's windy then you aren't going to be cold.

If this is some pun or joke, I don't get it. I assure you a place can be both cold and windy simultaneously, and this is not exclusive to Chicago.

I mean that cycling into the wind generates a lot of body warmth.

Don't worry, Atlanta in the summer is no less ridiculous for cycling. :)

> On a bike, you inherently have to make a physical connection with people. In a car, you're separated by glass and steel. But when you're out on a bike, you can actually see everybody, you can say hello to the people that you meet along the way.

This is an underrated aspect of commuting by bike. I ride 8 miles into San Francisco every day, and more often then not I get a little bit of human interaction somewhere along that route. It might be waving and saying "hi" to a member of the homeless community on the side of the bike path under a freeway interchange, or another bike commuter asking me about my electric bike, or just a driver smiling and waving me through an intersection ahead of them. These small human touches bring joy to me on a regular basis and are one of several reasons why I love my commute.

I think that even without interactions, it makes people less ready to be angry, which is a plus.

Smaller, cleaner, more efficient transport can help? Small to moderate amounts of fitness will improve quality of life? Less cars will yield less fatalities? I don't mean to poke fun at the article--I'm grateful for it--but this is all obvious to a bike commuter from the rainy PNW.

It's time IMHO that extreme convenience comes at a high price. That is, car access to every city block doesn't need to be the status quo. Make me walk a few blocks if I drive to town, or make me use transit/etc if my car can only make it up to major city boundaries. At the very least, put high incentives in place to keep daily flows down.

There are fair solutions to be found that do not disproportionately different working classes/income levels.

Keep biking.

37,461 people were killed by motor vehicles in the United States in 2016[1]. Whether it's more pleasurable to live in a city or a suburb is beside the point; our only options are to encourage the use of cycling and mass transit, or to condemn 37,461 more people to death every year from now on.

[1] https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/Publication/8124...

Ctrl-F 'Snow' : No hits

I know about Denver and Minneapolis...they both have times where cycling is a non-starter

Nah, not even close. Minneapolis has a lot of cyclists who go year-round. Even on the coldest days when the snot is freezing in my nose I'll see a couple of people cycle past me as I commute. After snowfall the main bike paths are frequently cleared first, before any roads. We have multiple bike-only highways that make a lot of travel safer for cyclists.

We could use concrete barriers between bike lanes and traffic, that's for sure, but there are enough options that you can usually avoid having to be in traffic.

It's certainly not even close to the crazy quantity of cyclists we normally have, but it is by no means a non-starter or dead out. Fatbikes really make a difference.

Source: Resident of MPLS.

I've cycled through winters with wind chill in the -15F range and up to a half foot of snow on the ground. So, it is more than doable to do in both those cities.

Everyone is not you. Can it be done? Sure. SHOULD it be done by a cross-section of the populous?

I don't see why it couldn't be done by almost anyone given that they live close enough to work. Anything less than 10 miles is doable assuming you have a good route.

>almost anyone

I think that you considerably overestimate the capabilities of “almost anyone”

Will power is a capability most people are lacking in, so I guess you are right. Most people have the physical ability, though few realize it.

Maybe proper bike infrastructure could increase the number of bicycle-commuters from ten percent to thirty percent. Think of all the space you could have for your car if there were twenty percent fewer cars in front of you.

In Pasadena, we just spent a ton of money trying out the Metro bike-sharing program [1]. Unfortunately, it turns out the key to making a biking culture is not just putting down a ton of rentable bikes. [2]

I'd love to see safer bike highways, but the city doesn't seem able to do more than mark the pavement with sharrows. I understand that Pasadena's urban planning model frequently pits cars and bikes against each other - but, I wonder if we could cut into some of the significant lawn space on each side of the street in order to make bike lanes?

[1] https://www.pasadenastarnews.com/2018/07/09/pasadena-to-pull...

[2] It turns out people in the affluent parts of Pasadena aren't driving because they can't afford a bike.

Give me bicycle lanes and I'll cycle to work every day! Force me to share a lane with multi-ton metal beasts travelling much faster than me and I'll just get the bus thanks.

> Force me to share a lane with multi-ton metal beasts travelling much faster than me

That's the problem with the keep as far right as practical law that only applies to bicyclists. For other slow vehicles, it means that they use the rightmost lane available for traffic. For bicyclists, it means that they need to share the lane side-by-side with a car in a lane that's only wide enough for the car by itself or two bicyclists riding abreast.

If the bicycle specific keep as far right as practicable law was repealed such that the cyclist could just use the entire width of the lane they're in, then people riding a bicycle in traffic wouldn't have the lane sharing problem you describe.

In San Francisco one major barrier to cycling is theft. You basically cannot leave a bike for > 1hr. This additional burden means many who would bike (such as myself) no longer consider it an option. I previously biked upto 45minutes each way for work.

> A 2013 report by the city’s legislative analyst estimated that 4,085 bikes worth $4.6 million were stolen in 2012, with the downtown and South of Market neighborhoods the hardest hit.


In Copenhagen, the bike theft rate is around 28 per 1000 inhabitants every year. Yet a huge amount of people still bike every day.

I have fixed rear wheel lock fixed to the frame, and a chain lock that I carry around the seat post, and use to lock the frame to a bike rack or other fixed object. Most people do the same.

The biked that get stolen are the very fancy bikes and bikes that are left unlocked or poorly locked. Ride an ordinary bike and remember to lock it, and you'll be fine. Personalize your bike with stickers and such, to make it much less desireable. And get insurance.

Buy a sturdy lock ?

Cue familiar joke about all bicycles being fifty pounds, if we factor in the lock needed to protect them: a 5 pound bike needs a 45 pound lock, a 20 pound bike needs a 30 pound lock, and a fifty pound bike needs no lock at all.

Some get around this by buying multiple locks and keeping them at commuting destinations.

They get cut all the time. I assume you're not from SF? I agree that a sturdy lock works elsewhere (for example in the Canadian cities I've lived in) .

Davis, CA seems like a bikers' paradise until one visits the Netherlands. "Bike highways" with separation and clearly-marked routes. (Insert holy enlightment sound fx.)

Also the electric scooters sure help avoid Uber and Lyft bloat in cities, and getting more resistance than they should, IMHO. Hey SF, might want to consider that. The scooters weren't that messy compared to getting down 2nd street at 9am on any weekday.

Personally I try to OneWheel since I can ride it and pick it up with me. Don't have to worry about it being jacked by the SF petty crime syndicate.

I think a big issue is how quickly things are changing in terms of what vehicles are used. There is an explosion in commuter vehicles now, both of the rentable and privately owned variety. I think the rentable ones are probably experiencing the most rapid change.

Motorized scooters, semi-motorized bikes (the ones that "flatten hills"), "hoverboards," motorized skateboards along with those one-wheeled self-balancing things that I want so badly. :) Haven't seen motorized roller skates in the real world but I'm betting on them arriving soon.

And then there are the self driving cabs that we know are coming soon. Combined with the rentable scooters and bikes, these can allow mixing it up in interesting and practical ways.

It seems like thinking of cars, bikes and pedestrians as 3 distinct categories is not going to work for long. Maybe a bit fanciful, but I could almost imagine rainbow stripes drawn on the roads, with red being for cars, purple being for pedestrians, and if you're using a motorized skateboard or a bike, you'd tend to ride in the greenish area.

Effect and side effect seem mixed up here. What is great about Amsterdam isn't the bikes, it's the lack of cars. Yes adding infrastructure for bikes takes space away from cars so the results appear one in the same. But perhaps focusing instead primarily on car reduction we'd find better ways to plot more livable cities.

Cities are so varied, and have such complex contextual traffic flow variations, that comparing two is an unhelpful oversimplification. What works for the Netherlands will not work for Boston. What works for Osaka will not work for Bangalore.

I think that's an incredibly defeatist attitude to take, and the perfect excuse to not improve anything or try to learn from what others have done.

I’d love more bikes in our town, but it’s not very flat. Is there some data on how much flat does the town have to be to get around on a bike? (I guess electric bikes change that equation a bit, but they’re still quite expensive.)

San Francisco is a big biking town and is very much not flat. You can get around on a bike in a hilly city, it's a combination of learning slightly longer but flatter routes to where you're going and getting used to the hills as you get in better biking shape.

This seems to contradict the 8-80 rule mentioned in the article. "Getting in better biking shape" is a realistic goal for someone healthy and middle aged, but notsomuch for an 8 or 80 year old.

i knew an 80 year old who cycled a fair bit every day, and this guy was not exactly in great shape. he just had a nice little bike with a lot of gears so he could ride it at a comfortable pace

hopefully carbon fiber continues to get cheaper, because having a lighter bike really does make a difference on climbs. that said, anybody can go up a hill in a low enough gear(!), but psychologically it can still feel like a lot of work to pedal so much and go up so slowly. so part of it is learning how to ride. for that reason i agree hills are a (surmountable) barrier to entry and probably hillier places have less cycling. everyone quotes Amsterdam as a great model, but its flat geography is easily suited for cycling -- a better model would be a place that has challenging geography AND still succeeds with great infrastructure. i do think things are moving in the right direction though, people are starting to wake up and realize that there are countless personal and social benefits to cycling

Carbon fiber only makes a marginal difference in total weight. Especially when you factor in all the extra stuff that bike commuters frequently carry (laptop, lunch, lights, lock, etc).

it is true the difference in total weight is quite marginal (maybe 1%?) but that doesn't mean the impact is equal to 1%.

there is a perceptual quality that is often neglected when calculating the differences purely in terms of physical forces.

we agree a lighter bike will only be marginally faster in terms of speed on the ground but to say a rider doesn't notice a 1% difference in their speed requires an appeal to perception not to physics. those few seconds of a commute count.

i think that's why big granny gears that could roll a tank up a hill still don't solve the problem -- they just feel too slow

another way to think about it is this --

you could say to someone, "don't complain about your bike -- just lose 10 lbs and you'll get to your destination faster than you would by changing your bike".

yeah ok, but like losing weight is easy (actually it is if you bike a lot, hehe).

but if you put that person on a walmart beater and compare their commute with a carbon bike, they sure as hell will report a difference, even if the clock doesn't.

the point is that we are concerned with getting people on bikes and moving their bodies, not about time trials (which ironically is where fast bikes are marketed, because the premise is that it doesn't matter for everyone else. maybe it does!)

does it matter enough to spend 10k on a carbon bike today? well that depends on your finances. but when they are cost competitive? yes, please.

Walmart bikes are miserable to ride because of the horrible groupsets, not the frame material. Carbon fiber bikes are available now for much less than $10K, but if you're on a tight budget it's usually better to pick a bike with a cheaper metal frame so that you can get a more expensive groupset.

Carbon frames have significant drawbacks compared to metal frames, especially for everyday bikes.

Sure, the weight reduction matters when you're racing, but carbon frames don't stand up very well to the bumps and scrapes of a bike commute. If you crash a metal frame, it may bend a bit, and if it's unsafe to ride, it's generally immediately obvious. A carbon frame can look perfectly fine, but suddenly snap at an inopportune moment.

For commuting and everyday riding, you want something slightly heavier and beefier. Most bikes these days are aluminum, and some people still swear by lugged steel frames for their durability.

i generally agree with you, but i also think it's a little more complex --

carbon fiber is extremely strong for its weight -- if you have an accident that is going to render it unsafe, you are sure likely to know. its true you can bend a steel frame back into shape (not so much with aluminum), but steel also rusts, and with anything the quality of the build matters (what do the welds look like, is it lugged, etc)

in any case im talking about a future where carbon is cheaper and replacing it doesn't cost the equivalent of a college degree

if anyone wants to read far too much about this stuff, ya gotta read sheldon brown:


Carbon fiber doesn't do very well under repeated vibration and shock loads, and is very susceptible to UV damage.

This can of course be mitigated, but that's part of why CF frames are expensive.

And in the end, the weight savings are rather small, most people do fine on hills as long as they have the appropriate gearing.

30% of new bikes sold in the Netherlands are electric. In Belgium, 40%. No need for carbon frames - electric engines flatten all terrain.

but electric engines don't flatten your stomach

You still have to peddle, in the EU they don't have throttles.

How would that data look like? It depends a lot on your personal fitness level what you'd consider too steep. Just looking at number of cyclists has so many confounding variables that I don't think you can infer something about the influence of local geography.

Velomobiles like Organic Transit's ELF and Better Bike's PEBL have most of the benefits of a bicycle and a car.




Once you delve into the article, it becomes clear that it's the changes in the town's infrastructure and urban form that have to be done to enable safe and worry-free cycling that result in a more livable space, where mobility goes up within the town. Cycling isn't the cause; rather, it's an effect of an urban form that treats them as valid form of transport, and doesn't force them to gladiate among heavy cars that go five times faster, or confine them to narrow strips where unprotected pedestrians walk five times slower.

The 'shared space' concept, where traffic-calmed cars are in close proximity to bikes and pedestrians, relies both on traffic devices, the emergent slow speed of traffic to act as a barrier to overtaking, and on the psychological inhibition of drivers to not flaunt the idea and drive like madmen anyway. It also trades physical separation of pedestrians for an emergent one, which is a raw deal for some disabled people (e.g. those with impaired sight, hearing, or mobility), or those with small children. This is a tradeoff that some communities don't find acceptable.

But for the majority of people for whom it works, mingling car traffic, bike traffic, and pedestrian traffic in close proximity has the advantage of decreasing the utility of high speeds that could otherwise be attained by cars and increasing the utility of lower speeds and non-motorized forms of transport. This effect encourages the town's urban form to be compact and provide employment and services close to residences or transit nodes (like train stations), which leads to the cityscape familiar from the Netherlands.

Areas that were developed with the assumption that the sole choice of transportation will be the automobile face many barriers to retrofitting other modes of transport as a realistic choice. This is because density is a key metric: a car covers 20 times the distance in the same amount of time as walking. If there is no employment or services within a walkable radius, any sidewalks or bike lanes are largely for recreation, and don't offer a meaningful everyday alternative to driving. This is why dense areas like CBD Vancouver can mull over these changes, but doing the same in Surrey is a lost cause. In the US, where urban employment is a mix between those living there and those commuting by car from far away, the streets of cities are still dominated by cars that are trying to cover distance in little time. Market Street in San Francisco is chock-full of transit and pedestrians and stoplights, which prevent it from being an urban highway, but other streets in SF are far too rapid to safely host pedestrians or bikes, even though the city around it was clearly built at a time when slower transport was the norm.

I have also to recommend longboarding here. Way funnier and easier to carry with, and commute time is pretty much the same in the city.

I am under the impression that the author never really biked in Amsterdam 5:30pm from center to south in a week day.

On a related note, "Making Space for Cycling" has compiled an excellent guide on bike-friendly urban development/renewal. [1]

[1] http://www.makingspaceforcycling.org

I live in a regular house in the burbs. Not a spring chicken age-wise. Here's what it would take to get me into denser housing -

1) Privacy - sharing a wall or floor should NOT give my neighbors privy to my arguments, love-making, or guitar playing.

2) Personal transportation != pedal-pushing. I gave that up when I turned 16. I'll take a scooter.

3) Reliable public transport for long-distance travel. Meaning well-maintained, to useful destinations, and not subject to wage strikes (probably meaning automated.)

There are some technology fixes available: Autonomous braking that recognizes cyclists should be mandatory, and retrofitted to trucks traveling on city streets. Bikes could also be fitted with cameras that could be used to issue traffic citations for passing too close.

Not in any city with a real winter (-10F to 20F)

I already loath going into my ice cold car and waiting for the heat.

the exercise actually warms you up quite a lot! you really just need protection from the wind, for your hands in particular. a quality set of mitts or pogies for extreme cold and ur good to go :)

I don't bike in winter, but 'Fat Biking' has gone way beyond fad here in Northern Michigan.. You see people commuting around town in them all winter long... a foot of new snow is not a problem for these folks. But it is a smaller city.

You just have to dress properly. Moving under your own power generates a lot of heat. You have to trap it, but you also want to avoid sweating. Also, you will want to eliminate skin exposure if it is very cold, like -10F.

Anyone who's believed that the key to sustainable futures is simply swapping out ICE for electric motors simply is being wishful at best, willfully difficult at worse.

The biggest problem I have with electric cars is that they continue to encourage low density low efficiency suburbs with hours long commutes into the high density cities. This is economically unsustainable, roads are expensive, and will only get worse as EVs pay no gas tax and weigh more than their ICE cousins. Considering that America's road system is in bad need of repair and we don't have the will or funds to fix it, doubling down on them is not a wise call.

Also, it's not like producing an EV is a carbon neutral act.

The ship sailed on low-density suburbs 60 years ago. We're past the point of return on those. Outside of San Francisco, Manhattan, and downtown Chicago, most people live in the 'burbs and that's not changing. We will be living with this housing stock for decades--if not centuries--to come. It's best to engineer around that reality, not to daydream of an Amsterdam-like utopia that will never happen for 99% of this country.

You are far too certain. 70 years ago a prognosticator wouldn't be considered insane to say "the ship sailed on cities 50 years ago, Americans live in downtown and that's not changing". These things do change, often quite quickly.

Personally, I think the Boomers are in for a big shock when they try to sell their homes for a "fair" price, and discover that Millennials neither want nor can afford large suburban homes. Once that happens the market (and politics probably) are going to do some really freaky things.

> Millennials neither want nor can afford large suburban homes

I see this often. Very few people want large homes when they are either single or don't have kids.

As soon as you do have kids and they start to grow to an age where they want to play outside, having space to run, play sports, be away from traffic, have their own room, etc gets a lot higher on your priority list.

You can also get a suburban home without it being "large" and still get a lot of space to go with it. People used to get "starter homes" and then periodically trade up if/when their incomes increased or they had some equity in the home.

It seems like the biggest barrier to this today is that people want to go straight to the HGTV home. I can't tell you how many people I've known who, straight out of school, overextend to the most expensive house they can afford.

If you want more house, for your money...that usually means buying farther away from density.

There's some more nuance here than "urban-jungle" vs "suburbia".

It is totally possible to live in a walkable area with urban amenities without being inside a dense mega-city. These used to be called "street-car" suburbs-- urban nucleations that exist just outside of the central business districts of medium-to-large cities. They're sort of like cities unto themselves. They're sometimes referred to as "main-street" communities.

Lots of people live in such places and don't realize it or they've managed to give too much away for automobile infrastructure to notice that, YES, it is possible to live such that not every trip necessarily begins and ends with an automobile in a parking space. This can be done in many places _without_ moving to NYC/SF/Chicago.

How much house one needs (if any) is a lifestyle decision that can fluctuate over time. People can adapt. It starts with demanding things like "complete streets" (https://smartgrowthamerica.org/program/national-complete-str...), walkability as a target in new developments and intelligent requirements for parking so that we don't end up with "ocean-of-asphalt" parking lots.

The suburbs have less air and noise pollution, which is good for the children but overall it's a dull and isolated environment. Playing alone in the backyard just because that is the only place where a child can go out of the house is quite sad.

In Europe the children can go to a shared park or a playground. Strolling along a street is also safe and quite pleasant when there is little traffic. There is more space and things to do than you can have in your backyard. And more importantly, they get to play with other children.

In Europe the children can go to a shared park or a playground. Strolling along a street is also safe and quite pleasant when there is little traffic. There is more space and things to do than you can have in your backyard. And more importantly, they get to play with other children.

This sounds exactly like the US suburbs I've been in!

We live in the suburbs. Our kids play with other kids at the local park all the time. But you're insane if you can't see the huge advantage to being able to just let the kids out into the backyard.

I'm a Millennial (by some definitions) with kids. I don't want "more house"; instead I want my kids to have access to things to foster their independence and growth.

I have a lot of friends, with kids, who have had to look farther out into the suburbs because of home prices and inventory. And nothing in this price range is HGTV material, believe me.

Somehow Americans managed to have large families 100 years ago without the palatial McMansions. You don't need a large home unless you're running on the real estate investment treadmill.

You act like Millenials don't already have children, when the oldest members of that cohort are 37.

Yeah, so that reinforces my point. Millenials aren't going to buy up those suburban homes.


Shaming people for intensely personal choices is rude. Cut it out.

Your argument basically presupposes that there’s something desirable about suburban homes, and that people not buying them is abnormal. I find this both unconvincing and historically incoherent.

My argument is that not having children en masse as a group goes against biology. It's happening in a lot of places too.


It's not shaming to point out a thing is happening or that it a thing is biologically necessary to further the human race. You're welcome to call it anything you want, but there's a lot of "shaming" that's gone in the other direction as well. I've watched it my entire life.

Desired home locations are just a side effect.

Okay, then I’d argue that having 2 kids goes against biology. And that moving to a suburban home and schooling your kids rather than working them in the field is unnatural.

That is after all, how humanity worked for a few Millenia.

If people don't reproduce, people stop existing.

You're arguing for the Amish.

Yes, having kids is (currently) still the main way to propagate our species. It may not be so in the future and/or when lifespans increase many times it may make more sense to make much fewer kids.

Even today, with a global fertility rate of 2.5 children per woman and a population of over 7 billion people I don't think there's any need to worry about biological mandates. On the contrary, I think that in developed countries where each human being consumes much more (and consequently generates more waste) than other countries the birth rate should be heavily lowered. Of course, our economy/society may not be engineered for that but better start doing it sooner than later.

Having access to automobiles, vaccination, running water, and anti-biotics goes against biology.

On the other hand, getting eaten by a tiger, living with ringworms, having your teeth fall out before middle age, or having 50/50 odds of dying by the age of 4 is perfectly natural, does not go against biology.

I don't think biology is a great litmus test for how we want to structure society.

Aside from automobiles, the other examples you have are things humans have done to further the survival of the species. More advanced versions of seeking food and shelter essentially.

Which is a natural expectation of the species...

What if the survival of the species requires us to take steps to, over generations, reduce our population to ~1 billion?

Or maybe people realize the raising kids is an enormous cost from both money and time. Maybe it's selfish, but myself and many of my millennial friends would rather spend their prime earning and health years doing what they want rather than what they "have to" do for kids.

Yeah, also costs are rising at an insane rate. Health care and college are both an order of magnitude higher than they were when millenials were children, and even then many of us saw our parents work hard and still not build any savings until their kids were on their own. I haven't bothered looking for it but it would be interesting to see the difference in cost of raising a child over the past century

Just do yourself a favor and think long and hard about whether or not that's going to sustain you for the remainder of your 70-80 years on this planet.

Maybe not, but having kids doesn't seem particularly more likely to sustain them, does it?

Kids are the easiest, most straightforward way to give purpose to your life. You can find purpose in other ways, but kids are pretty much a sure bet. If you're not going to have kids, you should have at least given some thought to what else is going to keep you moored. That's all I'm advocating for.

> It's because somehow, an entire generation has grown up with the idea that the one biologically necessary act to further the survival of the species...is not a good idea.

No, because they don't believe they're financially stable enough to support children[1]. Millennials have dealt with stagnant wages and rising housing costs.

(While some of the responses to that story ([1]) do indicate a desire to do things other than raise children, many of the responses indicate a desire, but a lack of ability. Additionally, leveling off the population growth of humanity would likely have benefits for the environment, though certainly some current government schemes assume infinite growth, and those will have a bad time.)

I'm personally in the "can't" not "won't" bucket. Real-estate in SV is nuts, and I will have to (as James Mickens calls it) complete the "sisyphean task" of escaping SV and its housing crisis.

[1]: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/05/upshot/americans-are-havi...

Anecdote of one. 36, wife and two kids. Have a quarter acre of land, a pool, and a 2600 sq ft house in a Tier 2 city for ~$200k. Why would I ever choose higher density and city living? I would not pay more for a lower quality of life (and distance means little to me, as I work from home and my kids don't go to school).

I happily bought my suburban home instead of living close to others in a condo or a townhouse.

Yep! This is the "smart for the individual, dumb for the group" type of a dilemma. It absolutely makes sense for you to do this, individually. As a society, it's rather undesirable for people to live this way. Your lifestyle is being subsidized by (mostly poorer) people living in dense areas [1], and by the externalities we all deal with: pollution from extra driving, lawn care (leaf blowers, gas powered lawn mowers, weed wackers, etc), otherwise unnecessary infrastructure (bridges, plumbing, electric lines, roads, sewage, etc.)

It doesn't make you a bad person to be taking advantage of bad policies. But cities do need to incentivize sustainable living over unsustainable suburban sprawl.

[1] https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/9/5/but-rich-people...

I don't disagree. Simply price what it'll cost me to live in low density housing away from other people and I'm happy to pay. I will pay whatever it costs to not live in a dense urban core (to your points about environmental impact, we own two Teslas, have solar panels on the roof, have an electric lawnmower, and consume most of our power on site).

Sprawl is not unsustainable if you internalize the external costs, and I'll argue it'll get cheaper as mobility moves to electric vehicles and trucks, new infrastructure (with higher longevity) is built in new subdivisions instead of trying to replace 100+ year old gas, water, and sewer mains, etc.

@village-idiot: To your deleted comment, yes, my Teslas have a carbon impact during their manufacturing, but it is less than the SUV and pickup truck we used to own. It is very difficult to have no impact whatsoever on the Earth; optimize the best you can.

Buying suburban for me would replace my 30m walking commute for a 1.5h driving commute, all for a yard I wouldn't have time to use with my commute. Not a good trade for me.

I also don't have any kids and won't be having them.

How old are you? I was quite sure that I wouldn't have kids, either, but I randomly met a nice girl who lived in the (urban) apartment upstairs from me and next thing I knew, I was 38, married, and watching my son being born. It comes at you fast and unexpected and it wasn't at all the life-ruining thing that I was sure it was when I was 28. Here in my early 40s, my only regret is not doing it earlier.

Old enough and married long enough to make me changing my mind unlikely.

Fair points. My commute is 20 minutes (long enough for one NPR podcast and a Dunkin Dounts coffee on the way), and I only go into the office a few days each month. My employer even installed an EV charger for me!

That sounds about perfect for a driving commute.

FWIW, what works for you as a childless person is not super relevant to what works, in general. In the long term, earth will be filled mostly with people who have children.

Make that an anecdote of 4 - you, I, and 2 neighbors. Also, better school quality compared to the urban core.

Yes, but fewer people are having children, which reduces the demand for suburban living.

The suburbs also have less attraction for me as a parent. In the old days you could let your kids roam a suburb freely - now you can't. So why not live in a city? You have the same restrictions, but also a lot more distractions such as free museums.

My kids roam freely every day in our suburb. They are 6 and 3 years old. Suburbs like mine are awesome: most residential streets here have no outlets and don't have a lot of car traffic as a result. My boys have friends up and down the block and we know everybody in every house on the street. It's a fantastic way for kids to grow up.

Statistically, it is much safer to let your kids roam today than it was 30 years ago. Violent crimes are down quite a lot across the board.

Why can't you let your kids roam in a suburb?

There’s an increasing social pressure since the 1980s to supervise children at all times because of “stranger danger”. Parents have had the cops called on them for letting their kids play in the yard.

Nothing structural has changed about letting kids roam, but the social side has.

I suppose my kids could technically "roam" but they won't have anywhere to go that's interesting. Most kids can't even walk or bike to school in the suburbs.

Interesting is also very different for a kid. Kids get interested in bugs, the woods, forts, climbing on trees.

In the suburbs I've lived in, there are no forts, woods, or trees that you can climb, without being told off by whomever owns the property the tree is on.

Ahh. I'm lucky enough that my kids have some trails, two parks, a lake, a water park etc. within walking/biking distance to roam to. Not to mention friends' yards. And roam they do.

Busybodies who call the cops when they see children without a nearby supervising adult?

> Personally, I think the Boomers are in for a big shock when they try to sell their homes for a "fair" price, and discover that Millennials neither want nor can afford large suburban homes

There are plenty of foreigner investors who'd be happy to buy their property.

I get what you’re saying but just from a legal and complexity point of view, you’re unlikely to find radical change in suburbia.

It’s just like the issues with rail — because you have so many landowners, the capital costs of transforming a single family block or subdivision to higher density is really expensive or requires eminent domain, which would be politically difficult.

You can have scenarios (especially now that it’s ok to walk away from mortgages) where prices drop. Single family isn’t going away.

> Millennials neither want nor can afford large suburban homes

Due to the economics of supply and demand, if the former clause is true then the latter clause cannot also be true.

There's a lag in between those things where both clauses can definitely be true.

That's a false choice. Do the right thing on the margin! Allow lots of new high-density construction. Tax cars entering city centres. Extend metro lines and allow plenty of high-density construction around each station.

Sure, you won't turn Tampa into Rotterdam overnight but those changes are important and they do add up. 50 years of these policies would give us much better, even if not perfect, cities.

They didn't turn Rotterdam into Rotterdam over night either. It took several decades of infrastructure work for the city to become bikeable.

Are you saying Brooklyn, The Bronx, and the neighborhoods outside of downtown Chicago are suburbs?

If so, we may have vastly different ideas about the definition of a city.

Also, Seattle, Philly, Boston, Miami, and lots of other smaller cities are very much unlike living in the suburbs.

I know nothing about the latter three cities, but most of Seattle is made up of low-density, residential-only neighborhoods, very suburban-feeling to my sensibilities - and I'm talking about the city proper, too, not including all the even-more-suburban areas surrounding.

I grew up in Chicago. I've lived in Brooklyn, LA, Seattle, and now I'm back in Chicago.

As far as I'm concerned, there's a ton more "city" in those neighborhoods than those high-rises. Density is only one variable in an incredibly large equasion. Seattle has a good deal of its own as well. Even in neighborhoods as nice as Queen Anne.

That said, I wish most other cities had it as good as Seattle. And I wish Seattle was far more diverse than it is.

> We will be living with this housing stock for decades--if not centuries--to come.

I had the impression suburban homes tend not to be well-built. They may last a few decades, but that's about it.

Other forms of electric transport, like scooters and electric bikes should be pushed more. Together with decent mass transit they solve the last mile problem quite nicely imho. But unfortunately the car lobby is extremely strong and doesn't want to lose its market.

Here in Salt Lake City there are a number of people who commute year round. It really isn't bad as long as the snow is removed - which they do quite well here.

Unfortunately, my bike commute only happens occasionally now that I work in the 'burbs - which, at least here, is where all of the new office complexes are moving.

High altitude snow is also really weird. Back in Denver you just had to get used to snow disappearing and leaving behind dry concrete.

There's this weird thing that happens in northern climates where all the bikers and scooter riders magically disappear sometime around October and don't reappear until sometime in April. I can't figure out why this happens, we should really aim to understand that before we push bikes and scooters on half the human population. I don't think it's the car lobby that causes this disappearance.

In the Netherlands the fraction of cyclists that keep riding in Winter is much larger than in cities with similar climate. Cycling in winter is not that hard, it's not worse that going on foot. What's important is that snow is removed.

There are sooo many things that you need to do to make cycling in winter possible; snow must be cleared, you need special tires, you need extra warm weather gear, you need to wait for the blizzard to end, etc. etc.

Or I could just get in my car with a light jacket and blast the heat. Rain, shine, snow, blizzard, whatever. I'm good.

Except for the warm clothes the same is true for cars. Snow must be cleared, you need special tires, you shouldn't drive during a blizzard. It's just that you've normalized those things when it comes to cars.

When the snow is cleared you are generally fine with normal tires on bikes btw, because you can just go a little slower.

Also you don't need special tires. As the name implies, all-weather tires work just fine. And I can make it through quite a lot more snow in my car than on my bike (the converse is that it's a lot easier to unstick a bike than a car!). Also the risk of commuting in the winter is a lot greater for cyclists than motorists (i.e., if a car loses control and hits you).

I live in Minnesota which is a cold weather state. We get lots of snow and winters last a long time. I’m not from Minnesota but have lived here for 18 years. I have never changed tires on my car. I will never bike in the winter time. Too many chances to slip in winter while biking. Pockets of ice, areas that aren’t cleared well, etc.

Studded tires make riding on slippery roads a non issue. The risk is from drivers sliding into you.

Proper biking infrastructure would reduce this risk in all weather.

The same goes for driving (well, driving safely at least). You need winter tires, you need an ice scraper, probably a snow shovel and other gear. You probably also shouldn't be driving around in a blizzard, either.

Come to Copenhagen or Amsterdam. We bike in all kinds of weather, backed up by great public transport.

You definitely don't need winter tires; all-season tires work just fine. And an ice scraper (or even a shovel) isn't a burden for motorists. Also, winters in Copenhagen are probably quite a lot warmer than many places in the U.S. (the lowest average monthly temperature is barely below freezing!). Quite a different story from Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, or Des Moines.

Yeah, you actually need winter tires. All season tires are garbage.

I’m guessing you’re not accounting for wear. I can’t tell the difference between my all seasons and winter tires, but the performance gap between summer tires and all seasons (in winter conditions) is enormous.

Wear matters a ton. Winter tires are usually made of very soft rubber to maintain pliability below freezing. Driving them when it gets warm destroys them quickly.

I'm not sure if you meant that as a rebuttal or not, but I completely agree. :)

Depending on the weather, yes you do need winter tires. All-seasons are a compromise, and the only actually good ones wear out really quickly.

I've scrapers are not a burden to carry in a car, but they do cost money, and require physical effort to use.

You should visit Copenhagen in the winter, and enter a dimension of slush, the freezing/thawing cycles make it extremely unpredictable to ride or drive in. Actual steady freezing temperatures are so much easier to deal with.

It hasn’t stopped a lot of us up here in Minneapolis. Other than - possibly - a balaclava, I don’t dress significantly different for winter biking than I do for general winter weather. The effort warms me up quickly.

No one in Amsterdam has special tires on their cycles during winter and everyone here has a winter coat, it really is not a big deal.

Amsterdam the average winter temperature is like 3 degrees Celsius. Where I live it's -10, and it can easily dip into the -20's for weeks and the -30's for days.

There's also these things called "clothes" humans have been using to protect themselves from the elements for quite a while. Humans walked across Siberia with little more than animal skins. I think most can handle a 30 minute bike ride when it's a bit chilly.

It's often not the cold, but the riding surface. Ice, snow, and water really change the dynamics of riding a bike.

The same is true for cars, yet nobody uses that as a reason not to drive a car.

I’m always shocked how few people swap out for winter tires in appropriate climates.

Also distressing was the number of people convinced that all wheel drive made their car safer in the snow.

Isn't it safer, though?

I'm not very experienced with this stuff, but one of the issues is having sufficient traction to make it up hills, and all-wheel drive is superior at that. If you have to roll back down a hill and try again with a running start, that may be doable, but that makes things more chaotic and unpredictable on the roads (compared to making it up the first time). In an ideal world, other drivers would be attentive enough to handle it, but in reality not so much.

Also, more generally, because static friction is greater than dynamic friction, any time your tires lose grip, you have less control over your car at that moment. All-wheel drive means tires are less likely to lose grip when accelerating / applying thrust.

No, it’s more convenient. I personally would argue that AWD can make cars less safe because of the false confidence it provides.

The most important thing you can do with a car is brake and turn, as those affect safety the most.

All cars brake with all four wheels, drive type has absolutely no effect at all. All modern cars have enough braking power to slide on clean concrete, let alone snow and ice. The only thing you can do to improve braking distance is to change your tires.

Steering is only affected by drive type when you’ve got the hammer down, as you may be asking the front tires to propel and steer the car at once (this is partly why FWD cars often understeer). But in a snowy situation you won’t be driving flat out, so which wheels are driving will have little effect on steering, and zero effect if you’re coasting or braking.

What AWD is great at is getting you off the line in low traction scenarios, which is convenient. It also means that you can get an AWD car up to speeds that are unwise in the present conditions (remember that steering is two wheeled in almost all cars).

The only real advantage that AWD has is that AWD cars are typically heavier than their two wheel drive cousins, and weight absolutely confers safety in snow.

> No, it’s more convenient. I personally would argue that AWD can make cars less safe because of the false confidence it provides.

> The most important thing you can do with a car is brake and turn, as those affect safety the most.

Yep, I could notice that when I was leaving north of arctic circle. Each time my driving mates ended up in the ditch (failing to turn on a crossroad), it was with a 4WD. I tried to explain to them that 4WD does not help to brake and turn (especially when their 4WD land rover/cruiser is 50% to 100% heavier than their regular car), to no avail :-(

Luckily most of the landings happened in the snow banks and were relatively smooth, but the lesson was not learned :-( But hey! they finally get to use the 4WD to pull back out of the ditch :-)

I think we really have no argument with each other here because we're talking about two different things: car capabilities vs. overall picture including driver behavior. "AWD vehicles perform better in ice/snow" is a different statement from "you're safer in an AWD vehicle".

Sure. But in other geographies, what kind of clothes can possibly protect from 96-degree heat and 100% humidity?

Look at how Bedouin nomads dress.

Image-searches say their clothing appears to be long-sleeved, multilayered and often head-covering. I can't tell the weight or the fabric-type, but I'm pretty certain they're not minimum-weight synthetics.

That much insulation seems utterly counterproductive for hot-weather exertion, though it probably would at least protect from sunburn.

A shower at your destination

A shower after biking in shitty weather - while certainly helpful - does not address the characteristic sensation-of-imminent-death during biking in shitty weather.

Not all. I just put on my balaklava and some knobby tires. It's not that bad with the right clothes. I wouldn't walk around in Boston winter without my face masks either.

I'm genuinely curious: do you wear glasses? How do you keep them from getting fogged up/iced over when riding in the winter?

Contacts are essential. Even without my balaklava, my hat bothers my glasses, making them press into my ears.

Also, my Asian nose doesn't hold glasses very well. Once while biking in the summer (with sweat dripping) they fell off in traffic. I was basically blind. It was terrifying.

Thus, contacts.

Gotta get a face mask with vent holes for your nose/mouth. That lets the moist air escape away from your eyes, reducing fog.

> I'm genuinely curious: do you wear glasses? How do you keep them from getting fogged up/iced over when riding in the winter?

Don't waste your time. Pro-cyclists are the most biased and privileged people I've ever met. Just get on your bike, it's so easy! forgets that some people have bad knees. All you need is some goggles when it rains! forgets that people wear glasses. Just wait for the snow to be cleared! forgets that some cities don't clear snow. Just buy knobby tires! forgets that smaller people will struggle with the extra weight. Just wear a face mask! forgets that some cities ban face coverings and certain demographics get looked at strangely if they wear balaklavas

I laugh at the idea that cyclists are privileged people when your entire argument is "I want to sit in my $30k steel box, not have to prepare for changes in weather, not interact with other people, and not work". The idea that someone on a $400 bike who read a weather report and works to commute is "privileged" is ludicrous.

Don't forget the massive infrastructure investments required to support life built on the private car. Maintained roads and gasoline come at an enormous cost to society. The cost of everything is multiplied by driving-based distances.

Also, drivers aren’t even paying their way for roads. The percentage of roads paid for by gas taxes is at 50% and falling. Those of us who commute sans car are chipping in thousands of dollars per year to subsidize road commuters.

The privilege is around ability, not cost. No less than half of my coworkers are constantly complaining about how broken their bodies are, you expect these people to just hop on a bike and go?

Well, if they had done that earlier their bodies probably wouldn’t be so broken. Sitting still is bad for you.

I just find your hatred for cyclists utterly bizarre. Did a cyclist murder a family member and you need revenge, or what?

I absolutely do not hate cyclists, I am one myself. When I lived in the city, I commuted in to work on a bike. I have lived that life and know what it’s about.

What I disagree with is the idea that we can build a society around cycling. I was lucky to be able to live close enough to work and be abled enough to do the ride 5 days a week. And I was lucky that, on days with bad weather, I could work from home because of my job as a software developer.

As I started to look outside of my own life, I saw that not so many people were lucky. Actually, most people weren’t this lucky. How would I ride to work as a construction worker, with all my equipment and rotating job locations? How could I do this as a nurse, where I would be on my feet all day working odd hours? The more and more I considered all the ways people participate in society, the more I realized that the very narrow constraints of cycling just don’t work for most people.

So sure, build the cycling lanes and bike racks, I’m not asking you to rip those up. There are many people who can cycle and we should accommodate them. But that’s it - Just accommodate them. Don’t try to uproot the core structure of our way of life. You’ll want the roadways when you get old and injured can’t ride any more.

Oh, so you made up my position (rip up all the roads), and then got pissed about it. Got it.

This isn't really a fair statement to make. Sure some people will have struggles with using a bike all winter and it may not be possible for them, but it doesn't invalidate the ideas or arguments as a whole. To assume all people for the idea are just biased and privileged based on cherry picked negative situations is just not fair. If you can't cycle then you can't cycle. Just because a few can't do something doesnt mean that this idea as a whole is invalid.

The idea alone isn’t invalid in theory, but in practice. Add up all the people who can’t ride bikes for whatever reasons and you see that we’re exactly where we’re at now; some people ride, most don’t. You seem to think that it’s a small number of people who can’t ride, but I think it’s the opposite.

I don't understand this reasoning.

People use this same logic when others suggest eating healthy and exercising.

"And if someone works three jobs and has ten kids? Hmmmm? Then what?? Gotcha!"

Begins to reek of someone using the condition of others to rationalize why they themselves can't be bothered to do something. Not to mention the fact that you're more privileged in a car than on a bicycle.

Cycling really does attract the same nonsensical aggressive reactions as eating healthy and exercising.

Some people can't drive due to medical conditions or because they're too young or too old. Should we stop building roads?

Nope, but those people can be driven by someone else. How the hell do I drive my mother to the hospital on my bike?

“I might occasionally need to use a car, therefore I should use it all the time no matter the context” is a very weak argument.

"This thing has incredible utility and practicality, therefore I use it for most transportation because it allows for flexible planning - a necessity in an ever-changing world"

As opposed to a bike: "This thing has a very constrained set of operating parameters, therefore I use it occasionally when the situation fits best"

If it's an emergency you call an ambulance, if it's not an emergency you take a taxi.

How far northern are we talking? There are still a lot of bikers in NYC in my observation, and Amsterdam is pretty far north.

Amsterdam May be at a high latitude but it’s very mild.

I've commuted on bike in Montreal down to about -10C. No special clothing, no special tires.

Hour+ long commutes are also just terrible. Terrible to live through psychologically, they waste time with you sitting still and not moving so you get fat and weak, and they are dangerous.

You are absolutely correct, but there is a really weird addendum to this.

There have been a bunch of studies trying to measure the relationship between commuting time and (subjective) quality of life. Most of them find exactly what you'd suspect: longer commutes reduce quality of life.

The weird thing is that they found a small uptick at the absolute extreme edges of commuting, like in the 5+ hour a day range. It's still shittier than a 30 minute commute, but it was better than a 4 hour commute. Nobody really seems to know why this is, but it's there.

Either way, I walk to work. There are few better ways to commute, IMHO.

>"Either way, I walk to work. There are few better ways to commute, IMHO."

The bicycle is one of those ways. It's faster and significantly more efficient.

Bicycling also requires more concentration. I regularly read a book while commuting, which is nice.

Personally, my commute would be too short with a bike. I like a good 20-30 minutes between home and work to clear my head and get in/out of the zone. But that's just me.

I could never read a book while walking, at the very most I'll listen to music, but I also wouldn't do that while biking.

Personal limits of multitasking, I guess :-)

I think it depends a lot on the mode of transportation. An hour driving a car is really awful. An hour sitting in transit or a car someone else is driving is ok-ish because you can at least read a book or something. Though a lot of transit is standing room only which is again rather unpleasant. An hour of walking or cycling IMO is not bad if you have a desk job. Much more pleasant way to get exercise than going to a gym all the time, as many car commuters seem to do.

Another way to look at the problem:

Locating offices unnecessarily in the middle of high-density cities creates long commutes.

As a Chicagoan, the perceived value of an office's location tends to be directly proportional to how close it is to the center of town. Downtown is well-served by both the intracity bus/train system and the unrelated intercity light rail system. Even offices a mile or two further out can be much more annoying to get to on public transportation.

locating them in random suburban office parks is much worse, except for those in that particular 'burb.

Is it?

Because the traffic in the suburbs is usually nowhere near the level of traffic in the city. The commute time tends to be relative to the traffic density more than the distance.

I drive to the same location, 15 miles away every day. Depending on the time of day and the traffic, the drive will take 15 minutes or 45 minutes.

The commute problem is forcing all of those cars down those same roads at the same time. Locating offices outside of the middle of cities would largely correct the problem.

The Atlanta suburb is Alpharetta has a night-time population of about 60k people and a day-time population over 120k. Traffic during the day is bad and those office parks aren't exactly close together.

Another example with even worse traffic (but you can usually walk a little bit for lunch time) is Sandy Springs + Dunwoody.

FYI these two job centers are, easily, a 30 minutes drive from each other.

These are scattered all around the city so choosing to live in a suburbs really limits your working options if you need to get to an opposite-side suburb. (60 - 90 minutes one-way would be normal to get from Alpharetta to Marietta with any traffic)

It's bad because some commuters will have to cross the city center to get to the suburban park, and there's no feasibly way to provide commuter oriented public transit.

Compare that to the offices in downtown Chicago for example, where a large percentage of the workers arrive at work via Metra (medium distance commuter trains) and el (inner city public transit).

Lived and worked in the suburbs of Atlanta, can confirm that suburb traffic going cross town of same suburb (Alpharetta) for 5 miles could take similar time as commuting from the same location to Buckhead.

Similarly, going crosstown in Atlanta without highways is also bad.

lol I was going to reply with the Mansell -> Windward Pkwy drive as well :)

Even if you are in the suburb it is bad. They office park has no houses within walking distance. Sure technically you are in the same small city, but you may as well be 30 miles apart - either way you will drive to work. (it is possible to bike to work, but you are doing it for exercise or because you are some sort of "new age hippie" - it isn't practical)

I wouldn't want to live in that kind of area, no matter how much I enjoy working in it; the land is far too valuable as office parks.

Why are people willing to spend out their butts for just the right housing, when all they really need is a half-decent car?*

*and perhaps a two-thirds-decent library of hair-raising music or enlightening podcasts

It may sound like a good idea at first but it really isn't.

Switching jobs is much easier if you can essentially keep the same commute. Companies are more efficient if their employees can easily meet with clients, potential recruits, attend conferences or just have coffee with their peers. All the positive spillover effects would go away if each company had its office in some random suburb.

Think about this: How long is the new-to-trashed cycle for phones? for cars? for homes? The answers are, approximately: 4 years, 16 years and 100 years.

The problem with your top-down utopian "we shall raze and rebuild our cities" rhetoric is that it always crashes against the massive inertia of the existing built-up landscape. No to mention that people genuinely like their houses, but we don't even need to bring that up.

Don’t put words in my mouth.

> Anyone who's believed that the key to sustainable futures is simply swapping out ICE for electric motors simply is being wishful at best, willfully difficult at worse.

Hopefully people aren't literally thinking that, considering that cars are only one piece of the carbon problem. It's not even the biggest piece.

I would recommend you take a visit to the tesla motors subreddit.

There are problems with cars, but returning to the bicycle, an 18th century city technology, is regressive, not the way forward. The car was a great liberator from the congested and dirty density of the city which was once the luxury of only the rich to escape with their estates and private coaches. Make the suburbs more energy efficient, and figuring out an innovative and fairer way of financing roads is the progressive path.

> returning to the bicycle, an 18th century city technology, is regressive, not the way forward

Just because something is old does not mean it is a bad idea. By the way, bicycles were first developed in the 19th century (not 18th) and have been continuously improved since then. And motor vehicles are not much newer, anyway. The Benz Patent Motor Car was sold in the 1880s. For comparison, the most popular type of bike sold today, the "safety bike" became popular in the late 1880s.



I've explained cycling to high-tech types as taking advantage of the literal nanotechnology the human body uses. Bikes make use of the human body much more than cars in my view.

You're mistaking the movement per unit energy efficiency of the car vs. The bicycle as the only reason for preferring one over the other. There are a myriad of emergent benefits to people having affordable climate-controlled engined-vehicles with storage that has improved their lives dramatically.

Reread my comment, as I don't know what you are referring to.

I never said bikes are better in every way, or even more efficient. Actually, I think a well designed motor vehicle could easily beat a bike in efficiency, particularly for common diets, but it would be smaller like a bike. E.g., a motorcycle could be better.

My argument was that old technologies aren't necessarily bad and that motor vehicles are nearly as old as bikes, so the age argument also applies to cars. I don't disagree that cars have benefits.

By that logic we really should start ditching pants. They’re absolutely ancient!

Newer is not inherently better.

Well, can I at least have an EV on my bicycle for commuting? To me the biggest challenge once cities get cars off the road is to deal with motorcycle traffic (assuming they're not in a city where cars were always secondary to motorcycles). That allows a wider range (distance from transit) of commuters to avoid fully-powered vehicles.

Ideally I'd love to see more of these bicycle silos, both attached to transit hubs and in office environments:


They help solve the safety issues with leaving your bicycle somewhere. More traditional parking is great where space and trust allows, too (say, in a private office or behind a monitored door).

Oh yeah. EV bikes are awesome. Far more space efficient than cars (although less than buses), and producing very little extra road wear compared to regular bikes.

I think there’s a quiet bike revolution going on right now, EV bikes went from exotic and home made to common practically overnight. I’m excited to see how this will change our society.


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