Thursday, October 21, 2010

America rediscovers the bicycle

This is a positive development:

America is known for its enduring love affair with the automobile. But in the last few years cities across the US have reported a surge in bicycle use, as people search for greener, healthier - and cheaper - transport options. The BBC's Daniel Nasaw looks at what Washington DC is doing to push two-wheeled travel.

America is a land of long distances, of thousands of virtually empty square miles of prairie, farmland and baking desert and frozen tundra.

US cities sprawl on a level unseen in Europe, Canada, and Australia, a consequence of transport priorities that have long favoured motor vehicles. And in all but a handful of US cities, it is virtually impossible to get by without a car.

But in recent years, amid widespread concern about US dependence on foreign oil, high petrol prices, signs of global warming and an obesity epidemic, a number of US cities have taken steps to increase bicycle usage.

These cities hope that by adding relatively low-cost bicycle lanes, bike parking and bike sharing programmes and making other city plan adjustments, they can lessen traffic congestion, reduce the strain on public transport, and promote healthier citizens.

From the Beeb. The biggest thing that stands out for me is the fact that Canadian and Australian cities themselves sprawl on a level that I'm pretty sure is unseen in Europe, which makes me wonder if American cities are really that much worse than ours, or if the author has a romanticized image of Canada and Australia. There doesn't seem to be a byline on the article, so I don't know if the author is from the UK, the US, or somewhere else. I kind of doubt s/he comes from Canada or Australia, though. Seriously; people commute to Toronto from Waterloo, and I've even heard of people driving from Stratford for crying out loud. That's 150 km each way, five days a week. Are the Americans worse than that??

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