Let Them Eat Cake!
It seems to be a trend lately that Mayors and Council members from various cities around the world have taken to the streets and actually TRIED biking around the cities they are responsible for. Not surprisingly the results are almost always the same - it comes as a huge eye opener, prompting significant changes in policy and a sudden realization that they really haven't been serving their public as well as they could have been.
It's amazing the viewpoint one can have on something like cycling when they haven't actually tried it. "Well we painted some pictures of bikes on the road, what more do they want?" they say... "Can't they just ride with traffic?" "Who actually rides a bike anyhow?" "Well if more people were interested in cycling we might consider improvements, but cycling is really not a priority for our city"
But get those same people on a bike and you get great stories like this one:
In Vancouver's last municipal election I actually made a point of voting for councillors who were bike friendly, more so than just focusing on one party or another. Apparently I wasn't the only one who did! All but 2 members of our current council are experienced riders. Well the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition wasn't content to have all but two, and managed to convince our two holdouts, Kerry Jang and Tim Stevenson to give cycling a try. The councilors got signed up for VACC's Streetwise cycling course (the course is designed to give non-cyclists the "basics" for how to handle themselves in the city).
Next council vote on bike-related measures passed UNANIMOUSLY. Are there any doubts that the message got through? Get out there, try it, and now tell me how you feel about a little separation between cars and bikes!
I think though at this point we can all agree that Vancouver has become quite progressive with respect to bike infrastructure. Our recent $25 million commitment to bike improvements in Vancouver is proof of that.
Not surprisingly, similar things tend to happen in other cities when council gets out there and gives riding a chance. For instance, a few years ago the Mayor of London nearly got creamed by a passing truck while scouting out potential bike route locations with a few of his staff. Suppose there was any change in their attitude towards cycling after that?
Cities like Vancouver or London where cycling is already recognized as legitimate are one thing, but if you had to choose probably the most cycling-hostile city in North America, it would be LA.
At least until now!
After a trip to Copenhagen, the Mayor of Los Angeles decided to try out cycling in his city:
Whoops... Mind that cab! Despite being injured almost right away, the Mayor has woken up and seen how beautiful his city can be. The result? An immediate increase in spending for new bike infrastructure in what is generally known to be the car capital of the United States!
If LA can wake up and smell the chain oil then I have great hope for the rest of North America!