Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bikes Better be the New Cars

-Lauren Silverman

Back in the 80s there was talk about electric cars being the new BMWs. Today you hear rumors about hybrids being the next SUVs. I am all for replacing our gas-guzzling behemoths with something more energy efficient, but there is a new alternative that’s gaining ground. Thanks to unaffordable gas and cities taking the lead in creating more bike-friendly neighborhoods, bikes are quickly becoming the new transportation vehicles of choice.

I started riding my bike to school back in 9th grade, and since then, I’ve been hooked. It wasn’t the wind blowing in my face, or the off-roading capabilities of my cheap mountain bike that converted me. It was the ability to avoid traffic, park wherever I desired, not have to ask my dad for a ride, and save money on gas that really tickled my fancy.

More and more people are recognizing the advantages to biking to work and school; it is often faster than driving a car helps save money, the environment, and even keeps you in shape. Just look at the growing popularity of Critical Mass, an event typically held on the last Friday of every month in cities across the globe where bicyclists take to the streets en masse. Last time I rode in the Critical Mass of San Francisco there were hundreds of people, and the police were actually facilitating the event. And it's not only police that are jumping on board, other government officials are catching on to the bike trend too. Mayors, such as Newark, NJ.’s Cory Booker, and Boston’s Thomas M. Menino are making plans to improve their cities and stressing the importance of public transit and bike friendly streets. Portland just started a “Create-a-Commuter program”, which provides low-income adults with commuter bicycles as well as a session on commuter safety. The bikes even come with lights, a lock, a helmet, a pump, tool kits, maps and rainwear. If programs like this existed in more cities, I bet bike lanes would become a lot more common. Other bike-friendly modifications are taking place too. Across the street from where I work is a new free bike parking service, which means I don’t have to lug around a lock for my bike or worry about the wheel getting stolen. On more and more pavements I see the cute little bike sign indicating I actually have a few feet reserved for me and my bike - outta my way Volvos! And ratings for the most “bicycle friendly cities” not only help girls like me plan for future trips, but they make it desireable for cities to become “bike-friendly” tourist locations. Common rating websites gives the city of San Francisco spot number Eight - and I think they may be right, because since I moved here a month ago I have yet to be hit by a car…it was another story in Oakland (a city which isn’t on the list for a good reason.)

Because bikes are the new cars, in cities that haven’t made the necessary accommodations, bike accidents are increasing. I have experience with this first hand. Unfortunately, I have been hit by a car twice - well, once a man actually slammed into me because he didn’t look over his shoulder when he was trying to park, and the other time I was “doored” – someone carelessly opened the car door without checking to see if there were any bikes rolling by. I got quite a few roses and plenty of kind words after the first accident, but getting “doored” is basically an initiation ritual that doesn’t bring forth any sympathy cards from the biker community.

Even though they may be dangerous, bikes are flying off the shelves. Just the other day, as I walked over to pick up my bike and head home, I overheard a co-worker mumble to himself “I gotta get a bike!” I agree. My coworker should get a bike; but first we need to make sure our streets are prepared for bikes to be the new cars.

*image featuring SF's critical mass from Wikipedia.


Anonymous said...

amen to that
cars have long been good at ruining everything, it's time we shed out american weight and help the environment.

Anonymous said...

Nice article! I wish the road in my country could be prepared for bikes quickly.