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This is only tangentially related to the article, but I'd like to say one of the reasons why bikes aren't more popular in many American cities is because the road systems give no thought to bikes at all. I vacationed to the bay area recently, where bikes seem comparatively more popular, and noted the difference in roads between there and where I live. It wasn't so much that the bay area was good for bikes, but just kept them in mind. When there wasn't a bike path, there was a paved shoulder. When there wasn't a paved shoulder, there were signs and markings to help bikes and cars share the road.

Where I live, it approaches dangerous to bike on the road. When a road has a speed limit of 45 mph, turns, and no shoulder at all, it's difficult to bike. This is not in a rural area.




I live, and bike commute year round, in a bike-friendly city (Portland, OR). I don't attribute my pleasant ride to bike infrastructure but rather to the work the city did in the late 60's to fight urban sprawl with a thing called the "urban growth boundary." It stopped farmland around the city from being turned into subdivisions which forced people to fill in and maintain the older neighborhoods close to downtown. My 5 mile commute to downtown is through quiet, nice neighborhood streets, no special bike infrastructure needed.

Note that Portland is investing in bike infrastructure now, and it makes certain crossings easier, but I think the bikers came first, not the infrastructure.


The evidence clearly indicates that bike ridership follows continuous bike infrastructure. When a city builds more and better bike lanes - especially protected cycle tracks and neighbourhood greenways - the rate of cycling shoots up.


I'd imagine it also has a lot to do with climate. Where I live is too hot and humid to bike most months out of the year without having to take a shower when I get where I was going. Not really practical.

EDIT:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_of_Houston

Keep in mind that I have a 15 mile ride to work, and no, moving is not an option.


I don't buy that at all. I think you are making excuses. Life was feasible before air conditioned automobiles.

If you shower before you ride then you have twelve hours or so head start on bacteria - it takes them that long to multiply, excrete and cause a stink. So even if you are glistening with sweat at work then you can change your clothes, wash your hands and face, sit at desk, work, no smell needed. If you do stink then maybe it is because you lack fitness and basic hygiene, which is nothing to do with there not being a shower at work.

When was the last time anyone washed a seat in a car? Never! A car seat is one of the most disgusting places to sit. Would you not change the sheets on your bed for years? No. Yet sit in the same seat in a car, year after year, with a greenhouse around it, sucking in carbon monoxide from the tailpipe in front - no idea why people think that is hygienic.

You need to get practical!


Hah, right. I'll gloss over the number of assumptions about me that you make and we'll just address the real crux of the issue.

Biking 15 miles to work is not practical in 100+ degree weather with humidity averaging between 60 and 90 percent. Moving to be within biking distance of work is not practical when jobs change every few years and there are two of us living in the house which is fairly central to both workplaces.

And I wash the interior of my car yearly - your phobia about 'dirty car seats' is fairly silly.


Not only is that not practical, it's not safe or healthy. People die of heat exhaustion sitting in their houses when air conditioners fail or power goes out.


I'm curious. Isn't the breeze you get when biking enough to cool you down? I live in Denmark and we don't often have that kind of weather, but the breeze that you get when riding your bicycle can be really nice in the summer.


I've only experienced Dallas summer heat, but no the breeze doesn't help. I would leave work and it would be ~105 F (40.56 C). I'd get in my car and roll down the windows until the A/C started working. The air that came in while driving would feel like the same temperature as the air in the car, like a hair dryer or something. It was like an omnipresent inescapable oven. Imagining THAT with 80% humidity sounds unbearable.


When you're riding in the kind of humidity they get in Houston, a 100 degree breeze will heat you up instead of cooling you down.


>>You need to get practical!

I'd say trying to not die from heat exhaustion or stroke while riding uphill on a bike in 100+ degree weather is practical.


I'm going to assume that's 100 degrees fahrenheit, right?

That's around 37 degrees celcius for us non-US people =).

I'm from Sydney, and we often have low 40's (Celcius) during summer. We currently have raging bushfires over here in some areas =(, and it's easily 40 degrees.

I bike to work (and also for fun on weekends) during that sort of temperatures, and I've never been worse for wear...

I also jog regularly during that weather (although I find that harder than biking - less breeze).

Mate - you're not going to get heat stroke from riding your bike a few Km at 37 degrees, seriously...

As your fitness improves, you'll probably find it easier.

Just stay hydrated (you do carry water, right?), apply sunscreen, and you'll be fine. Sure, it's harder work than driving a car, but exercise is hard work (despite what those late-night TV ads tell you).


Yes, you are right. I live in Houston and I bike for 12 miles round trip almost through out the year except when it is cold and windy. And if you are commuting for work, you are not going to face the peak heat in the middle of the day during summer. But the roads are not completely bike friendly in here and there is problem of stray dogs.


I'm not exactly disagreeing with you, but humidity makes a HUGE difference. I've been in 100+ degree heat with low humidity (115, actually (46.11 C)) and it's downright pleasant. I've also been in 100+ degree heat with high humidity and it's almost unbearable. The difference is, in low humidity your body does a fantastic job of cooling yourself, while high humidity prevents your body from dissipating as much heat since your sweat doesn't evaporate. I'm not saying you're wrong, but temperature does not describe the entirety of a climate, nor its safety.


First you call this guy out then make the declaration that people don't wash car seats because obviously you do not. I have the interior of my car washed thoroughly no less than twice a month and my commute is only like 4 miles round trip so it is always thoroughly clean. Stop making assumptions based on your own warped view of reality.


With a higher level of fitness you sweat less. Cycling at lower speeds is easier than walking and and at higher speeds produces it's own wind.

> Where I live is too hot and humid to bike most months out of the year

That's such a defeatist statement, "too hot and humid to bike most months". I have a lot of faith in you. You could probably think of a way! It's not literally impossible! Maybe you could ride in the morning, before or just after sunrise. Maybe you could ride in a set of clothes, wipe yourself down in the bathroom, and then change into a fresh outfit to work in. You should try those things and three other strategies that you think of and then maybe I'll accept that statement "it's hard to bike during the summer".


There's so much misinformation about cycling going on in this thread.

There really needs to be better education regarding commuting via bike.

"I sweat too much" = you're likely out of shape. "The weather is too inclimate" = wear appropriate clothing. "I live too far away" = 15 miles in an hour is very reasonable.

Minnesota has heat indexes in the summer similar to the Middle East, in the winter we can get windchills <= -20F, yet Minneapolis is one of the best cities for cycling in the United States.


I'm not out of shape, and I sweat "too much," as in by the time I finished an hour of bike-riding in sunny FL, there would be no part of my clothing that was not wet. (I'm not exaggerating, and I have spent a lot of time on my bike in FL). This has been true for my entire life, including as a teenage boy who spent an average of maybe six hours per day playing basketball...certainly in shape. I read once that some percentage of people naturally sweat excessively compared to others. I feel very certain I'm in that percentage.

What is appropriate clothing for my example? I'd guess most appropriate would be naked, though I'd still be drenched. There is no clothing that can fix this.

I love riding bikes, but it has never been a feasible solution for my transportation to work, given that I don't want to arrive looking and feeling disgusting, drenched in sweat. I could handle your cold, though. Perhaps you've never experienced extreme humidity coupled with high-90s.


That would be a bummer.

You could still find a place close by where you could rinse off and clean up quick before heading into the office.

There are an innumerable number of ways you could make it work if you actually wanted to.

I can respect that it's far more inconvenient for you than it is others, and that may be enough of a hurdle to just never make it worthwhile.

As far as the humidity and high 90s, the Land of 10,000 Lakes gets our share of shitty weather. It takes a real commitment to continue through it.


Replying to sejje.

Ok, so you sweat a lot =). That's alright, we're all different.

However, I'm a bit confused here - you're claiming you do cycle a lot - but you don't like cycling?

I have to agree with scarlson - most people who live less than say, 35 km (21 miles) could easily bike to work, if they wanted. With a reasonably level of fitness, you could do such a ride in under an hour.

Is it work - absolutely. But come on, you save money, you get to see the outdoors, and you get exercise.

Beyond 35 km, yeah, I'd probably think twice, if it was every day. However, I know of people who bike from Penrith to Sydney CBD here, a distance of around 56 km (35 miles) - each way.

And by appropriate clothing - I think he means bike clothes (i.e. lycra). Sure, you can't wear it around the office - but I just get changed in our bathrooms at work.


That's a common cop-out. It's too hot, it's too cold, it's too windy, it's too hilly, etc., ad nauseam. The evidence tells a different story: where high quality, continuous bike infrastructure exists, you have a high rate of cycling regardless of climate, geography, demographics or whatever.


Imagine if more workplaces had a small shower stall one could use after commuting in? Or a bike locker area with secure parking?

I have the luxury of being not only 2.5 miles from my workplace (I ride in daily), but I can bring my carbon fiber race bike into my office and lean it against my desk. I am very lucky.

I've gotten very good at doing a mild cleanup upon arrival at the office if I go for a longer training ride before work: a damp washcloth, reapplication of deodorant, and I'm usually good. I do shower and shave before leaving my house, though, so I am starting things off fresh.


That's true, but Minneapolis, at the opposite end of the climate spectrum, is one of the most bike-friendly places, and bicycle commuting remains strong through the winter.


I would rather bike in cold than subtropical heat, personally.


Our summer heat indexes get up to 130F, people still bike here.


Heat indexes in Houston regularly get above 130F in the summer. Sometimes up into the 160s. Check out http://www.srh.weather.gov/jetstream/downloads/heatindex_rh_... and keep in mind that Houston will be 90-100F in the summer with 60-90% humidity.

That's not to say you can't bike for significant parts of the year, but there are definitely days where it wouldn't just be uncomfortable, it would be unsafe, to bike to work in Texas. Add to that that certain cities, like Austin, are also fairly hilly.


I get that there's likely going to be days where it's plain unsafe to bike.

That shouldn't restrict you from ever biking though, as seems to be the excuse some people are using.


but this one day, or one week, or maybe perhaps two weeks of not being able to bike means I should never ever touch a bike! Not to start about hills... but boy those hills sure are a challenge. Men are made to be going uphill in car, not on bike. I also live in a place where there are no downhills just uphills no matter where you go. -- Sorry! but I had the urge to use large amounts of sarcasm just to make a small point, there are people -not necessary lazy- that don't want to change their easy comfy ride into a bike ride.


As you said "continuous" is important. I'm looking at you, Palo Alto, with your protected bike lane that goes one block and ends at an intersection with two one-way streets.


You're right - I use the word "continuous" advisedly. No one would drive on a road that didn't connect to other roads.


Is this something you have concluded on your own from the evidence, or is there some article you can cite that summarizes the evidence for this?


I don't bike in Los Angeles because I have a family to provide for and I don't think it is safe at all. I do live close to work and I walk to work, because I like to keep a small footprint from both an economic (my expenditures) and environmental perspective; but my work is moving for the 2nd time in 8 years and it is not convenient to move house to follow it.

I do wish I could bike to work but I just don't feel safe. If there was a bike lane all the way to work, I'd feel safe enough to bike it.


Biking is a safe activity –– very safe in fact. Good route selection is a big part of making it part of one's lifestyle.

Sometimes it's nice to have some strength in numbers; can you commute in with a coworker?


"In 2011, an estimated 48,000 pedalcyclists were injured in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Sixteen percent (or an estimated 8,000) of the pedalcyclists who were injured were age 14 and younger."

677 bicycle deaths vs 230 deaths for those walking. Interestingly many more pedestrians were injured than pedalcyclists injured in that same time period.

source: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pubs/811767.pdf


To say that it's safe on average is not the same thing as saying it's safe in Los Angeles. Biking is not safe in most of Los Angeles.


It's not as safe as driving.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micromort


If I was willing to risk biking to work, going with a buddy would be nicer. I just don't like the risk of body versus car.

If there were dedicated bike lanes going to work, I'd be in them.

As it is, I walk or take my car.


Where do you work? I live in LA and bike to work every day, but I live 3 miles away from work in Santa Monica.

I would never consider biking downtown, at least not yet.


I live and work in Burbank. I just don't like the risk of a soft human body on a bicycle colliding with a multi-ton car.


That might be something very difficult to rationalize away. Being an active cyclist is to be cognizant of the risks and minimize those risks (i.e. ride assertively on safe streets, use lights, etc.), while also utilizing a little cognitive dissonance.

I ride between 5,000-10,000 miles a year. I've had several crashes due to my own fault or other cyclists' faults in races. I've also been hit once and suffered a very minor broken wrist that healed in three weeks. I am pretty lucky.

Some of my friends have been in crashes with cars and they are all fine. It was scary at the moment and they got hurt, with some injuries such as a broken collarbones, but they're all still riding and healthy today.

Of course, they all LOVE riding bikes. If you don't love to ride bikes, it's tough to "get on that horse after it bucks you off," so to speak.


Right. Your reply only confirmed my reluctance. =) I don't have that LOVE for the bike, I think you're right, that's an important point.

I want a pony. =)


I live five miles from work. There are bike lanes the whole way with no freeways inbetween. I drive.

I didn't move close to my job to spend 30+ minutes a day commuting.

I don't want to show up sweaty to the office.

I can run errands or meet someone for lunch. After work I wouldn't need to go home to get my car if I, on a whim, wanted to go across town for whatever reason.

Bay area is popular for biking because they make it difficult to park. Where I live they make it easy with large free parking lots. I'm in a large coastal city.


I agree! I sweat really easily and so biking to work would almost definitely make me sweat and look distressed before I even started the day. It is good to get some exercise I suppose, but I have a membership at the local Y and drive there.


Sign up for a local gym and use their shower.


So you have to from the gym to the office and sweat after the shower anyway?


Another reason, if you live in a city like where I grew up (Port Arthur, Tx), you had better be ready to be viciously attacked if you are out on a bike (or even out walking).


Someone is risk averse!

On a bicycle you have the Highway Code (or equivalent) on your side, you are also able to go into pedestrian mode if need be. Therefore you do not have to stop for anyone or anything if you do not want to. There are softer targets than cyclists and softer cyclists than you. So long as you have your wits about you then there is no need to be apprehended when on a bicycle.

You can even change your route to avoid having to stop, e.g. at a junction. You can also change your pace without arousing suspicion. There is no need to use a 'car park' or other area targeted by thieves. With an unassuming but well locked bicycle you need not have your ride be a cause of concern, even if locked up in an area you do not know well. In some cities parking is so expensive that the loss of a bicycle seat or wheel is 'affordable' risk.

By sticking to the tin box you are part of the problem and not the solution. Cities need regular citizens walking about in them to feel safe.


I'm out and about walking every day now that I live in Seattle; it really depends where you live. Thankfully, I don't believe you know what it's like to be cornered by five guys who want to beat your brains out for no good reason at all other than they are bored and have nothing better to do. At some point it's not worth it. It was a good motivating factor for me to work my ass off to make sure I don't live in such a place.


Actually I was writing with knowledge: I have been mugged, not just your normal mugging, but an ultraviolent mugging. I was on foot, two guys apprehended me, dragged me to the gutter, beat the living daylights out of me - I could see chunks of skin being kicked off my face but because they had kicked my kidneys in I could not feel anything (adrenaline). I heard more footsteps and thought I might be saved. Alas no, another gang joined in, the first of this group smashing a glass bottle on my head as a way of saying hello. After this went on for a while they dragged me to my feet and demanded money at knife point.

I know what I am talking about. My response to this was to ride a bicycle and never be a pedestrian in that bit of town again. I also moved house, seeing my own blood on the pavement was a bit much!

On your bike!


I think that might be part of what happened to Trayvon Martin. Walking to the corner store rather than driving was probably what seemed "suspicious".


By animals or by people?


People.


I am confused by this. Are you talking about being attacked as in being mugged or something? As in biking/walking being unsafe because of crime? Or do people in your hometown attack bikers and pedestrians because they're biking/walking? If it's the second one I'd be interested to hear more about it because that's fascinating.


Pure random attacks, completely unprovoked, to take your bike. Me being a white didn't help either as usually such events included a lot of racial hate towards whites.


I live in an area that is incredibly bike friendly, but many people don't bike. Most of them either have far too long to commute or it simply isn't realistic given the weather. In the summer you see a bit more, but (at least for me), it is far more realistic to bring my bike to work hooked up to my car, and use that to get around from there.


Most adults could easily bike through cold, snowy, or wet weather with some simple equipment(fenders) and the right clothes, unless it's in a literal blizzard.

Maybe you should harden up and accept that life comes with the occasional slight discomfort.


> Maybe you should harden up and accept that life comes with the occasional slight discomfort.

Harsh!

Perhaps start-ups need to offer showers and changing rooms and safe bike storage, instead of ping-pong tables and air hockey?


Showers would be nice. Though if you take a hot shower beforehand it sharply reduces the bacteria that cause most odours for at least 10hrs. A quick wipe down when you get to the office is then usually sufficient. If it's really hot you could take a change of clothes and change in the toilet stall.

As for safe storage of your bike, just take it into the office and lean it against your desk. Don't ask permission.


well the land used has something to do with it. They used special road funds around here to resurface and fix roadways. One of the requirements were to install bike paths.

Small problem, the hills are many, varied, and of enough incline and length, to make them a challenge even to seasoned riders. So its rare to see them there. If anything I am more bound to find them on the 45mph roads as those tend to be flatter. Some of them do have bike lanes.

Now we have change the purpose of some parks to be more family friendly and bike friendly, these are normally connected to purpose built bike and walking trails; the Silver Comet is one.

So I think geography does influence it a bit. Even if I were within a few miles of where I needed to go the land just isn't all that much fun to zip about, unless on a motorcycle then those curves and hills are most fun.


I agree with your point about the hills, except the bay area in California is also like that. Even San Francisco itself has incredibly steep hills and still has a lot of bikes.

By the way, how did you know where I live?


Definitively. Urban planning in N-A cities is focused on how to have cars circulate/park as efficiently as possible, unlike most European cities. Car lanes are large, sidewalks and bike lanes are slim. Lights instead of roundabouts, parking garages instead of bike racks.




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