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March 06, 2009

Bicycle Evangelists Descend on D.C.

Photo: Tony the Misfit on Flickr using Creative Commons

by Sara Tucker

Pedal pushers are on a roll: From 2007 to 2008, "bicyclists reduced the amount Americans drive by 100 million miles," says Earl Blumenauer, head of the Congressional Bike Caucus, writing in the Huffington Post. More than 490,000 Americans now bicycle to work.

With all that pumping, we're still way behind Europe, where "rates of cycling in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany range from 10 to 27 percent of all trips," according to the  Worldwatch Institute. (Our own rate is a measley 1 to 2 percent.)

Cities making a laudable effort to close the gap include Chicago, Minneapolis, Sacramento, Austin, which Mayor Will Wynn wants to make "The Fittest City in America"; Davis, California, a bike-happy city of 65,000 that "has spent well over 14 million dollars just on bicycle projects" in the past ten years, according to its official Web site; and Portland, Oregon, which has seen a 144 percent increase in bicycle use since it began investing less than 1 percent of its transportation budget in bicycle facilities.

In an effort to bring our nation's capital securely into the fold, the League of American Bicyclists has extended a special invitation to "all D.C. area cyclists" to attend Tuesday's National Bike Summit, where they can "learn what's needed to make the D.C. area a cyclists' haven like Copenhagen."

The people of Copenhagen credit the bicycle with making their city not only more livable but also more tourist-friendly. (It received a Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Award for its Bycyklen program last year.) And yet Streetsblog reminds us that in 1960, Copenhagen was "very much a car town." Now a third of its inhabitants, or more (than 500,000 people, bike to work every day (for an up-to-the-minute tally, see; for photos of Danish commuters cycling through the snow, click here). The turning point was 1962, when "the city created its first pedestrian street, the Stroget, and every year since then Copenhagen has allocated more and more of its public space to bicycles, pedestrians and people who just want to sit and take a load off." The city's new goal is 40 percent bicycle ridership or higher.

Wanna start a cycling initiative in your community? Bike America will tell you how. Wanna tell us about a bike-friendly city? Click on "Comments," below.


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