Bush is "a bike guy"...?
- Is this real? They still have sprawl, so how do they expect to have everyone
use a bicycle in their 20-mile commutte? The next well hear from Bush will
be that hes a smart growth guy! Lets see what happens
Bicycle is king of the road as gas costs rise
k> By Rick Smith International Herald Tribune
FRIDAY, MAY 5, 2006
Original source: http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/05/05/business/wbbike.php
Look no further than to the leader of the free world to find a serious
promoter of the bicycle. Referring to his newfound passion, President George
W. Bush has praised cycling as a way to "chase that fountain of youth" and
called himself "Bike Guy." This spring he spent 35 minutes in the Oval
Office with half a dozen U.S. cycling advocates, more time than he gives to
some government leaders.
But even though Bush is scrambling to find ways to cut U.S. oil consumption,
it is not clear whether he sees the bicycle as much more than a virtuous
He would not be alone. Although an engineer designing from scratch could
hardly concoct a better device to unclog modern roads - cheap, nonpolluting,
small and silent - the bicycle after nearly a century of mass ownership is
still more apt to raise quizzical eyebrows than budget allotments.
"There is a warm and fuzzy feel for cyclists, but it's a different thing
when you talk about practical policy," said Tim Blumenthal, director of
Bikes Belong, an industry association based in Boulder, Colorado.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says that only
five of the countries that it follows have comprehensive national cycle
campaigns at the moment - Britain, Germany, Finland, the Czech Republic and
Latvia. Poland and Spain were singled out as particular laggards.
And, most ominously for a warming globe, China and India seem to be using
their new wealth to pave the way for the automobile rather than to preserve
long traditions of mass cycling. So it may seem odd that many cycling
advocates are getting optimistic of late.
They acknowledge that progress may be slow at the national level, but many
see a wave of action swelling up from below - at the city level, where
exasperated mayors are connecting the dots.
London, Paris, Chicago, Bogotá and Seoul have embarked on major campaigns to
incorporate the bicycle into traffic grids. The results have led to
substantial shifts in fuel consumption, commuting times and even real estate
"A mayor or a deputy mayor can make things happen the fastest," said Andy
Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists in
Washington. "They are in a unique position and have all the levers to get
Consider the case of Enrique Peñalosa, the mayor of Bogotá from 1998 to
2000. In that city of seven million, he set in motion a transformation of
the transport grid with measures like peak-hour restrictions on cars and
about 300 kilometers, or 185 miles, of bicycle paths. He said that cycling
has become a primary mode of transport for 5 percent of the population, up
from 0.1 percent when he started. The share using the car as primary mode,
by contrast, has fallen to 13 percent of the population from 17 percent.
"It was a war to get car owners off the sidewalks where they used to park
and I was almost impeached," he said. "But in the end people loved the new
city and the new way of life, and we have saved many hundreds of millions of
dollars on road building and maintenance."
Peñalosa, who was prevented by law from running for another term, has been
teaching, writing and serving as a consultant to Mexico City, Jakarta, Dar
es Salaam in Tanzania and the South Bronx in New York City on cycling grids
and other transport innovations.
He sees the issue as one of democracy - economic as well as political.
"If all citizens are equal, urban policy should be democratic and not
everyone has access to a motor car," he said. "In Bogotá, even bus use can
take from 13 percent to 26 percent of a minimum wage earner's income and
bicycle use over 20 years generates enough savings to buy a house."
London may be the greatest success story in the new wave. When Mayor Ken
Livingstone introduced a congestion charge in 2003 on vehicles entering the
city center, a surprising side effect was a 28 percent surge in cycling in
the first year. The city says overall cycling mileage has doubled in the
last five years and it aims to achieve another doubling.
In some cases, merchants who were initially nervous actually saw sales
rising as the population of more fluid bus and cycle lanes fed them more
What has also been discovered worldwide is that accident rates have dropped
wherever cycling has gained momentum, as cars are forced to slow down and as
they become more accustomed to sharing the road.
"We're seeing a lot of people willing to try this and now it's getting safer
as we get critical mass," said Silka Kennedy-Todd, an official in London's
transport office. "The number of accidents has roughly fallen in half as the
number of cyclists has doubled."
In Chicago, Richard Daley, another charismatic mayor who is an avid cyclist,
has given that city the most active cycling program among major U.S. cities.
Daley, who has been mayor for five terms, started a "Bike 2015 Plan" and
wants emergency medical services and the police to put more of their forces
on two wheels.
In Seoul, Mayor Myung Bak Lee defied local lobbies and replaced a
six-kilometer elevated highway that once covered the Cheonggyecheon River in
the city center with parks, walkways and cycle routes.
What planners generally have discovered is that a little money spent on
cycling infrastructure can go a long way, even though it may take time to
produce results and they are not often easy to track statistically.
Roelof Wittink, director of Interface for Cycling Expertise, a research
organization in Utrecht, the Netherlands, said that Bogotá's investments in
cycling infrastructure eventually produced savings roughly seven times
greater. Largely, this resulted from better utilization of urban space and
from savings stemming from a slowdown in traffic flow.
Viewed from another perspective, his organization cited studies showing that
about 6 percent of funds spent in the Netherlands on road infrastructure
were devoted to the bicycle, although it accounted for more than 25 percent
of all journeys.
In Kenya and Tanzania, it is estimated that 60 percent of spending is
devoted to the car, which accounts for only about 5 percent of journeys.
Such ratios make it clear why many mayors are recasting their budgets.
"We have to start from scratch and retrain city engineers and
administrators," Wittink said. "Most still have a mind-set that makes the
car the priority and it's a major shift to go to any mixed solution."
One of the easiest and quickest investments is the simple bicycle rack,
either randomly scattered in small units, as in Paris, or centralized in
large parking lots, as in many Dutch, German and Chinese cities. The
standard formula is that one automobile parking space can hold 10 bicycles.
When such facilities are coordinated with rail systems, the volumes become
impressive. Nearly 30 percent of Dutch rail passengers cycle to the station,
and 12 percent then get on cycles again to reach their final destinations.
Cycle paths are so much cheaper to build and maintain that some cities have
gone to extremes to encourage them. Copenhagen finally resorted to providing
a fleet of free bicycles.
Of course, the global effect of all this ingenuity and experimentation in
the rich West pales compared with the opportunity at risk of being
squandered in the developing world.
Poverty long has consigned the bulk of humanity to foot or to human- powered
transport, and it means that China, India and Indonesia are far ahead of
wealthy nations on this environmental score, even if it is not by choice.
Whether they will improve on the pattern of richer countries is uncertain:
Eight years ago roughly 60 percent of Beijing's work force cycled to work
but that percentage has dropped below 20 percent.
"A monoculture is dangerous and that is almost what we've created in the
United States with the automobile," said Clarke, of the League of American
Bicyclists. "We need to own up to that as an example to others."
America, of course, does not have a unique predilection for the comfort and
status of the automobile.
"Even in the Netherlands, there were politicians in the 1960s who complained
about the nuisance of cyclists," Wittink said. Total kilometers cycled in
the Netherlands fell roughly 70 percent as car ownership rose between 1960
Similarly, Copenhagen has seen cycling increase steadily for 30 years, but
it still is below the levels of the 1950s, said Thomas Krag, a consultant in
Copenhagen who has advised the city and the Danish government.
But the Netherlands and Denmark, the undisputed champions of cycle use,
have come closest to restoring the bicycle to its pre-auto role. Perhaps it
is no coincidence that they share one concept: Dutch and Danish cyclists are
protected by an extensive legal framework and are fully recognized users of
"It surprised us that neither country has a national bicycle program as such
any more," said Mary Crass, a transport policy analyst at the OECD in Paris.
"It just wasn't necessary."
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