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Will Americans Ever Bicycle Like The Rest Of The World?

After reading a post at Earth First, I thought I’d seek out and share some bicycle inspiration. The following photos were taken at train stations around the world:


Malmo, Sweden


Amsterdam, The Netherlands


Tokyo, Japan


Leuven, Belgium

Niigata, Japan

Niigata, Japan

Too Cold?



So… What are we waiting for?!

A couple of weeks ago I wrote Is Your Neighborhood Bikeable? to see if we couldn’t get ourselves out of this biker’s block. There are some resources there to peruse. And there were also some amazing comments. I’m going to reproduce one from LHT Rider here, because I think it’s very useful.

If You Have Biker’s Block.

by LHT Rider

It is a sad commentary on the culture we live in that so many of us are afraid to exercise our right to use the public roads in a non-polluting manner. Believe me, I know how you feel. I went from not riding my bicycle for many, many years and have since become a 4-season rider in the northern midwest. Here are some things that have helped me make the transition.

1. Set small, achievable, progressive challenges for yourself. Baby steps are important. See for yourself what you’re truly capable of and question your assumptions. If you are willing to test your preconceived notions, you might be surprised at the results.

2. Allow yourself to do what you need to in order to feel more comfortable. For example if the road immediately adjacent to your house is too scary, allow yourself to ride on the sidewalk for a short distance until you can get somewhere safer. This is legal in many communities. Just remember to: be nice – yield to pedestrians, be careful crossing driveways especially if you do not have a clear line of sight, and do not under any circumstances shoot out into intersections from the sidewalk as car drivers do not expect you to be there.

2. Get a mirror & learn how to use it. It’s much less scary if you know what’s coming up behind you. While some people have no problem just turning around to see what’s behind them while still maintaining a razor sharp straight line, a mirror allows you to check things out more quickly and without the risk of weaving (into traffic, the curb, a pothole etc.)

3. Plan your route. On a bicycle you would almost never take the exact same route as you would in a car (because that’s where all the cars are!). Your city may have a map of official bicycle routes (maybe even online!). This can be extremely helpful and make for a much more pleasant ride.

4. Educate yourself. Read up on how to ride in traffic or refresh your memory on the rules of the road. Learn how to use your gears. A bicycle should give you a mechanical advantage over walking. It doesn’t have to be hard (or racing fast). In addition, as Heather @ SGF says, think about what you’re afraid of happening & figure out what you would do if it actually happened. There’s lots of good advice out there on everything from gear to how to change a tire. (By the way, riding a bicycle really does not require spandex or lycra).

5. Be sure your bicycle fits you. (This is getting easier, but can be difficult for many women.) Also make sure it works properly. There may be adjustments or changes in equipment that can make your ride much more comfortable and enjoyable. I have only recently come to appreciate what an amazing difference tires can make in the of your ride. Think about getting a basket or pannier so that your bicycle can haul more than just you!

6. Demand cycling (and pedestrian) improvements and safety in your community. The only way it will get easier/better for cyclists is if we stand up and say that this is something we care about and should be a priority for where we live.


Maybe Your Neighborhood Isn’t Bikeable Yet.

For many of us, I think it all has to begin with #6 above. Some of our neighborhoods just aren’t bikeable. Some aren’t even walkable. So while you are growing your own food and greening your indoors, please think about how we can make our communities more bikeable and walkable.

And when you come up with an idea, act on it. When you see an opportunity to do something about it, act on it. That opportunity could be big or small – a community meeting, someone who might listen via email or phone, a local election, even just a chat with a neighbor to start. And if someone else organizes a great, safe bicycling event, make sure you turn out in droves with friends and family.

Make these free and green transportation options possible in your neighborhood!

Need More Inspiration?

Ciclovia in Bogota is inspiring – 2 million people ride 70 miles of car-free streets, take exercise and dance classes, walk and join together every week. New York just shut down Park Avenue for bicycles. Portland closed streets for its “Sunday Parkways”, and has a website to help you get around the city car-free. It’s happening around the world.

In Seattle, Bicycle Sunday has been going on for as long as I can remember: all day traffic is closed to cars and trucks along the Lake Washington Waterfront. Now it has turned into Saturdays as well, and more are in the works! There’s even a Pro Walk Pro Bike Conference here in September. It’s not all we need, but it’s a start – it raises awareness, it allows people to exercise for free, and it gives us hope for more. The Liveable Streets Network has more inspiring stories and ideas.

Let’s work on it!

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44 comments to Will Americans Ever Bicycle Like The Rest Of The World?

  • as we look to reduce our use of fossil fuel powered vehicles , sadly the chinese , of whom 95% used to ride bicycles, are putting new cars on the road at a phenomenal rate. Its gonna be ouch!

  • oops, forgot to say wonderful, inspiring pics!

  • Excellent post. I agree that we need to do more cycling. It benefits so much more than just exercise. I enjoy trail riding through the woods. We have a really good bike trail very close to my house that is about 4 miles of good scenery, fresh air and just a good time.

  • ctdaffodil

    I think it would be wonderful if more americans rode their bikes places. I’m in a rural (read: no public transportation hub less than 10 miles away) area. I would ride my bike more places, if I felt it was safe. You see there aren’t any bike lanes where I live and the shoulders of the road are dicey at best. Add to that the main roadways with shoulders in my town are state roads with 45 mph speed limits and truck traffic on them, my kids and I don’t even ride to the town beach which is about 1/4 mile away from home.
    I remember growing up in a farming community where kids either took thier bike everywhere or walked – I miss that for my kids.
    My town sees a lot of cyclists on the weekend and every year there is a car vs bike accident – 4 years ago someone was killed (on one of the state roads near my house).

    Cars and cyclists need to learn to share the road – nicely. That means cycling single file and near the side of the road. Cars need to give a wide berth when passing and not honk at cyclist. Cyclists need to obey all the same traffic lights/signs – particularly stop signs. as for me and my kids we’ll mini-van it until our town fixes some roads and I see things get a little safer.

  • I got my trike yesterday! I am so more comfortable and stable feeling on the trike. I’ve got some short rides planned for this week and then one day next week (I have a couple days when I can be late :) ) I’m going to try to make it all the way to work.

    Love the pictures and I think all the points made to encourage riding are good and what I’ve been working on. I’m also coordinating with a friend that is an experienced rider to go with me for some of my rides too. There is actually a program here in Bellingham where you can side up for a “mentor” to ride with you in addition to bike safety classes.

    Going to start working on that “Redefine Normal” bumper sticker for my bike. It won’t work for cars-I’m going to see if I can find some balsa wood to recycle and paint. I’m thinking about what could work for cars.

  • Great pictures! We’re seeing a big uptick in bike commuting here, though I’ll have to say this university community has always been pretty welcoming to bikes. We just had a publication come out from the two cities and the university that has a map of safe biking routes, discusses projected new bike lanes going in, and explains all the rules and regulations for legal biking in town.
    We’re also getting Zip-cars this week! I’m excited! This means most of the 40,000 students who come here really don’t need to bring a car, between the bus system, the bike lanes, and the Zip-cars. That could really make a big difference in traffic around here!
    In my opinion-and not to take away from all the vegatable growing going on- how we transport ourselves is the number one thing Americans could change to help the environment. Thanks for encouraging this.

  • Rosa

    Baby steps is the perfect answer! People try to jump in whole hog and fail and quit, when if they gave themselves some leeway to be wobbly and afraid at first (the way they were when they learned to drive), they’d find they can do a lot.

    A friend of mine rides to work once a week or so, 12 miles. She was feeling like it wasn’t really worth it, her bus goes whether she’s on it or not. But after a few months of once a week rides, she started riding on the weekend, riding for short errands, etc – your boundaries expand as you push them.

    CTDaisy, people do ride in those scary rural areas – when I lived way out in northern Minnesota, my boyfriend rode his bike 17 miles on the no-shoulder county road to work every morning (we had one car, and I took it to the park & ride to bus into the city 50 miles away). Before that, I used to ride in a little town where people threw cans and bottles at me and swerved their cars to run me off the road – ten years later, there are a lot of people on bikes and the culture has gotten way more respectful.

    Plus, it’s not like riding in a car is safe, anyway – what’s the car death toll already this year, 40,000? I saw it in the news a couple days ago, and it was high.

  • Great post!

    The problem with cycling in my town, is I live in a very rural town. The city is maybe 4 square blocks, but the majority of the citizens live at least 10 miles out in the county. There is no incentive to bike in a rural setting – especially when your neighbors are sometimes 5 miles away!

  • This a deliciously motivational post, Melinda. I am vowing to be a bike riding person within the year. I was dreaming of an electric bike lately, then a tricycle and now I have a scavenged bike in my drive. It needs a lot of work, but the neighbor who retrieved it from the dumpster said he’d get it working for me.

    I am ashamed to say I fell off, hit the ground with bike on top of me – simply with me trying to try sitting on the seat for a ‘feel’ of the bike. This is a humiliating juncture to begin claiming I will be a bike rider, right? Okay, stop laughing. All of you. I mean it.

    I want to link to my post because there are some great photos of people around the world schlepping things on bikes. We Americans seem to need the perfect baskets, panniers, racks, etc. I am not surprised as we have been groomed for decades that the solution to most everything is to buy something. We are led into consumption as cure for so damn long.

  • trying to try?
    preview, proofread?

  • #6 has to be the first step in my community. My street is very steep where it intersects with a busy road. I’ve joked about if I rode a bike, I’d be apt to lose control down the hill and get hit by a car, but it is a true fear that I have. Now that the state is going to widen this busy road to four lanes, I’ve heard they’re going to restructure my street so that it’s not so dangerous. I truly hope that they add sidewalks and crosswalks so that I can walk safely, as I live close to a small grocery, library, post office, etc., but I never walk because the road is just plain too dangerous. This very much relates to your previous post about building community, and I realize that now I’ll have to get involved in this phase of my town’s development. I would love to be able to walk or bike around, and with some effort, mabye someday I will!

  • Great timing. I just got back from my first ever biking my littlest to school. It is an 8-10 minute drive in the car. 55 minutes round trip on the bike and, to be honest, a little nerve wracking. It sure woke me up though! I don’t think I’ll do it every week but maybe I can do it once every other week. I think those sorts of baby steps are a good approach.

    Also, I’ll post about this when I get back from my blogcation in Sept, but my city’s green task force just started a bike buddies group. They’ll do a bi-monthly Saturday night ride to get bikers together, get people not normally comfortable on a bike, and get familiar with routes. They are going to provide 1:1 tutoring on bike maintenance, meet to discuss commuter routes, etc. Last Saturday, the first ride, there were 32 of us.

    I believe that gathering groups together – making social connections like these bike rides – is the first step. Once everything is all warm and fuzzy and connected, then you can turn to bike advocacy.

  • What am I scared of on a bike? Falling off and getting hurt, or alternatively, having an asthma attack two blocks into the ride. I never feel like I’m in control of a bike (not helped by the fact that I live on top of a steep, long hill). I’m trying to get more comfortable on a bike at school though. It’s so FLAT out there in the midwest!

    I like Green Bean’s city’s plan, of getting people comfortable on bikes first. Wish they’d do that around here. Instead I have professional bicyclists biking by my house every weekend on their big weekend workout…

  • I always thought we were pretty good about cycling here in Seattle until I saw those pictures… HOLY CRAP! That’s a lot of bike commuters!!

  • This is not my brag but DH’s.

    Today he did the 15 min ride down the hill to the station… then dragged his bike into the city on the train saving himself 15min on the time it took him to get to work not having to wait for a tram.

    At the moment it will just be down the hill and I will pick him up from the station when he does it because the fact that it takes 15 min either in a car or on a bike should suggest just how steep that hill is. I think that when he gets to the go both way point he will actually get off at a different station where the road back is longer but less steep… Either way I am proud of him as its something that we have been working toward for a while.

    Kind Regards

  • The photos you found are amazing. And inspiring. The cute guy and I had a conversation a couple of days ago about taking the bikes in the truck to a bike path so I could get comfortable prior to setting off on the busy street in front of our house. Thanks for the nudge forward. I don’t feel quite so ridiculous about the idea now.

  • Rosa

    Abbie, don’t just hope, give them a call. Whoever them is. Your city council member, or the planning board – our DOT has a pedestrian/bike ombudsman. They may not always do what you want, but they do listen.

    Kate, nobody’s laughing. Biking is a skill, you’re just relearning it. Only nonbikers don’t think it’s a skill. And there are actually separate skills – riding on flat, riding uphill, riding downhill, riding in traffic, riding on gravel. You’ll get there.

    And you know what? If you want your seat low enough that you can put your feet down on the ground, go ahead and do it. If it starts to hurt your knees, put the seat up. Don’t let anybody make you ride a bike you’re not comfortable on, because they think they know what fit you need. If shipping wouldn’t kill me, I’d totally send you a nice u-frame bike, with fenders – they’re a lot easier to get on and off of than a triangle (boy) frame.

    Oh, here’s another “permission not to be perfect” thing – dont’ feel bad if you get off and walk up hills. Seriously.

    I bike to work half the year (the half it’s not snowing – I’m working on getting that up to 7 months this year), usually in a skirt and flats. And every spring, I start out walking up hills. Now, in August, I’m riding up most of them – but hauling a trailer full of kid & groceries & cat litter, sometimes I still walk. It’s OK.

  • Wow! Hello Reddit, Hello Digg, Hello Stumble!! Y’all, this post has received and amazing number of hits. The site even went down for a few minutes while they changed servers yesterday to accommodate the new traffic!

    Someday, someone will have to tell me how those social networking sites all work…

    Anyway, thank you all for your comments. Very interesting discussion. Forgive me for not responding to all of your comments – I love them all, but I have an awful deadline that just keeps hanging over my head and I have so much work to do! Rest assured I read them, usually twice, and they often affect what I write next.

    KELLY, It’s true, there is a growing population in India and China, and a growing prosperity as well. And that is scary when it comes to how many cars and CO2 are being produced. But the thing is, we here are still far and above the biggest polluters per capita. And the whole world weighs their own CO2 output against ours. So we really have to change our own ways before worrying about others. We have a lot of work to do here at home. And we should have done it 10 years ago, but let’s get cooking now!!

    Glad you liked the pics.

    CTDAFFODIL, I have lived in areas where #6 above was the only answer, where it just wasn’t safe to walk or bike. But I am sure you’re not alone in feeling this way. Maybe the first thing to do is to talk with the Sheriff’s Department and ask them what you can do to make it safer. Generally if they get several complaints or inquiries about something, they’ll start looking out for it. Have your friends call and complain about the problems, too.

    Another suggestion is to try having a block party along the road to the beach, or a Bicycle Sunday, where the road – or half of it – is closed just one day a week, so the kids can go down to the water on foot or by bicycle. I’ll bet you’ll get a lot of interest, and it only takes a couple of phone calls to get the permits to close the street. Check out some of the links in the last 2 paragraphs above for inspiration, and make a few phone calls.

    Because here’s the thing: if you don’t do it, chances are nobody will. And you’ll have missed this great opportunity!

    CTDAFFODIL & ROSA, Regarding accidents… I wish I knew the statistics, but I don’t. I do know that my husband used to work in the brain injury research center at UCLA, where they studied head trauma. There were a fair amount of bicyclists. But guess what? They weren’t wearing helmets. Helmets are the lifesaver. And second to helmets, riding defensively. The best thing we can do is create safe environments for bicyclists. There are very safe ways to do it. Country roads are perfect for creating bike lanes or even bike paths off the road, like LetsPlant’s ride. We can make it safer, we just have to do it.

    DEB G, I keep thinking about that bumper sticker, too! What an awesome idea. And I love the image of you in your trike, riding with your painted balsa sign “Redefine Normal.” Love it!!

    JOYCE, A very good point – the cars, the cars… private transportation is 38% of our CO2 output. You’re totally right. And it’s also the most difficult thing for people to give up….

    GREENE ONION, Redefine normal. ; ) My husband used to bike 10 miles each way to work. On country roads. And he loved it. Also see BELINDA’S comment. Awesome going , DH!

    KATECONT’D, Those are AWESOME!! Thanks for sharing. And um… I tried not to laugh. But I burst out laughing. : ) But I’m done now – go ride and be proud.

    ABBIE, Call them and tell them they should add a bike lane. If nobody calls, they won’t think about it. And the more people call, the more they will think about it. The plans should all be public record, so you should be able to find out what the plans are – they may even have community comment periods. I’m glad you’re getting involved!!

    GB, Awesome! Ok, y’all – you heard it! Start working on a bike buddies group. Stephanie, you too! Get some people together and go for a comfortable, flat ride somewhere. It won’t get any easier if you don’t start riding, but it will get easier if you do. ; ) Go Katrina – I’ll be the one waving the green pompoms over here as you start out on your ride.

    ROSA, Great tips! Thank you. You should see me walking down the street with a dog on a leash carrying 40lbs of dog food and a bag of groceries. People look at me funny. But I love it. And my arms are getting stronger!

  • More suggestions & thoughts about how to start the ball rolling in communities where bicycling is not a safe option?

  • I watched this documentary a short while back and think that the issue boils down to what was already mentioned above: redefining normal. In the US, biking is seen as a play-activity – a bicycle is carried on a car to a location miles away to ride around in a loop in goofy looking clothing. I think the easiest way to change one’s mindset toward bicyclists is to become one yourself and can the preaching and talk up all the fun parts of bicycling. That seems to have worked within our circle of friends. People who would have never thought of getting on a bike a few years ago now make small jaunts here and there. Its a start considering where they used to be before.

    We never talked about bicycle advocacy. We just rode our bikes every where pretty much all year round. In the summer, it was cooling, in the winter it was exhiliarating. I think our enthusiasm for bicycling rubbed off on people.

    As for riding on shoulders the best suggestion I have for now is to make yourself VERY visible. This means wearing lots of reflective neon stuff. Automobiles sometimes go so fast that they couldn’t possibly see someone huffing away at 8 miles an hour. Don’t hug the side of the road as you need room if you do get buzzed.

    And of course try to ride everywhere you can. Start small, and keep moving.

  • Haha, I think that’s a project that I’ll nudge my younger brother into doing. He’s not yet old enough to drive, so in the last few months, as the rest of us get busier and busier, instead of asking us for a ride to friends’ houses (he also has more friends than I do and no asthma), he’s riding his bike over. I’m so proud of him for getting used to biking. It’s a great skill to have, and especially in this day and age where kids can’t drive their friends places for a year after getting their license (here in CA). There was an article in the newspaper recently about all these kids driving different cars to hang out somewhere. Great that they’re following the law, not great that the law is such a hindrance to going places. They could all bike though. Wow, that is a good idea, getting my brother to start a biking group, probably when he’s in high school… hmmm…

    Also, I am trying to get more comfortable on a bike, just at school where it’s flat. Probably need to turn it into a routine though, so I remember to go out and bike more often.

  • I want to – I really do.

    BUT (I have butface)…

    We live in a VERY hilly town (the steepest street in the world is not too far from where we live), and most of my journeys include two kids, with the combined weight of nearly 50 kilograms (about 120 pounds).

    I’ve heard of people doing it, but although we hae a *few* cyclists around the city, none of them try these hills with a baby trailer. And none of the electricity-assisted bikes will do these hills – I’ve checked.

    So, I’ll happily switch to a bike when the kids are old enough to cycle next to me. Until then, I think we’re stuck with the car.

    As an aside, our city had a GREAT cableways system up until the 60s, when some stupid nitwit politicians got rid of it (it always turned a profit, but their reasoning was just preferring cars). I’m currently involved in lobbying to get the system back. *sigh* We’re also lobbying for greater frequency of buses, and accessibility for disabled/prams (they have steps at the entrance and are near impossible to manage with kids and shopping, and only run every 15 minutes on a very lax ‘timetable’).

    If you can think of any alternatives to the car for people in my position, I’ll be really keen. I hate using the car!

  • Clarification on the weight. My 3 yo son weighs about 22 kilograms, and my 1 yo daughter about 11. Add that to a trailer, though, and you’re probably close to 50.

  • Kirk

    I walk my son to school and stay home with 2 y.o. all day, but my wife rides to work regularly. Even in the middle of winter as long as the roads aren’t icy. She often gets “I can’t believe you rode today!” comments. Well, why not! It’s only 6 (very flat) blocks! What her coworkers forget is that it takes as long to ride as it does to scrape the windows on the van, drive to work, and park. Also, for such a short drive the van wouldn’t even warm up inside so by riding she rarely gets as cold as she would by driving. If it’s icy/slushy/rainy she walks – and still gets the “I can’t believe…” comments. Sad. Just sad. It’s only 6 blocks, people!

    Kansas is a rural state and driving is really quite a necessity in some areas so here “rules of the road” educational campaign would be helpful. Living in a college town, we have the annual influx of several thousand new students who have rarely, if ever, ridden a bike and who also regularly forget to use a turn signal or obey a “yield” sign. Both hazards when you’re on a bike. In all fairness, even though few drivers use a turn signal, almost no bikers do and I’ve seen many bikers ignore “stop” and “yield” signs. Adding to the confusion, I see almost as many bikes ridden on the sidewalks as I do the streets. I ride in the street – even when I’m pulling the trailer. With the constant population turnover of students, even the best public awareness/education campaign would be neverending. To it’s credit, the city commission is in the process of updating its “bicycle master plan.”

    After reading the post and comments, I recalled that my brother once participated in a Critical Mass ride in Missouri. I found the CM website and an interesting story about a ride in Seattle last month. My town is reasonably bikeable although there’s always room for improvement. However, I’m not up for organizing much beyond my own household right now. Our bike trailer has had a flat for two weeks now and I’m still planning on fixing it “tomorrow”.

  • [...] I stumbled upon this article in the bicycling subreddit shortly after my first morning of bike commuting [...]

  • Kirk

    If you can get one, your oldest is almost ready for the next step – a trailer bike. Also called “trailercycle” or “trail-a-bike”. Great things, cause when the little ones pedal they add some power. Probably not enough for the steep hills, but might help on some. If you’re partner/spouse is out with you then you can each pull one instead of loading up both in the trailer.

    I’ve never seen it but, sometimes I’m tempted to add our bike trailer to the trailercycle and really get a “bike train”.

    Not the only source, but a quick search found this:

  • So I did a little research… and the town’s development plan for the next 10 years includes restructuring my street and widening the busy road at the bottom of it (which I already knew about), but it also includes adding sidewalks and bikeways, and developing a more pedestrian-friendly town center close to where I live. There’s a meeting about it on Sept. 4, so I’m planning to go there for public comment and talk about how important it is to have a safe place for bikes and pedestrians. I am so happy that I read this post, or I may never have looked into it!

  • Craig

    See how Copenhagen, Denmark does it. It must include public policy.

    (make sure to watch all five episodes)

    or use this url for all at once, but not a good quality

  • Rosa

    Abbie, that’s awesome. And those public comment meetings are a great place to meet similar-minded people, too.

    I need to get off my butt and organize child care for our next round of public-input meetings about the bikeways.

  • [...] inspiration post about biking from One Green Generation (with amazing [...]

  • Jyotsna

    Thanks for this article. Loved, loved, loved the photos. What an amazing difference from my city (all of our cities) where cars rule the roads.

    I am seeing more motorcycle riders on the roads now that the gas prices have forced everyone to take a look at what would work best. Also, the buses used to be empty, and they are starting to fill up now.

    My question is this….how can I get my kids out on the road with me (a single mother) in a safe way. We also are quite a few miles from everything, (even though we live in Memphis) and I’d love to park my Honda van!

    As an individual, I think most adults can agree that one biker is safe, but with children, and their frequent impulsiveness, and little to no bilke lanes, what do you recommend?


  • Beany, great points! Abbie, Rock on, girl! I’m so happy to hear it!!!!! Kirk, Thank you for sharing your experiences. Craig, Great links – thank you. Very inspiring and educational.
    Daharja, Jyotsna, Good questions. I’m thinking about writing a follow-up post to address some of what you ask. Here are some initial thoughts I had – Kirk has some great thoughts (above) as well.

    Daharja, bicycling is not the be-all, end-all. If you just can’t do it, reducing your driving by consolidating trips, or buying a moped (and safety gear!!), or carpooling… all of these things help. And in the meantime, working hard to make our cities more bikable and bring back good public transportation (we all lost them – here in Seattle there were once cable cars everywhere!).

    In most cities there are great bicycling websites where you can find bike route maps showing the safer (and less hilly) ways to get from one location to another. You might do a Google search to see if you can find one.

    If you’re just starting out with your kids, I’d look into starting out on a bicycle path if there is one in your area. Make sure that your children – and you – always, always, always wear a good bicycle helmet and bright clothing. If you don’t have a bicycle path near you, chose roads with the least amount of traffic, or even just start out in a large park with paths.

    The safest way to bicycle with children is to have two adults, one riding in front to lead (and stop safely at intersections), and another to follow behind (so that everyone is always looking forward, and so that you know immediately if one of your kids stops for one reason or another). I know that is not an option always, so an alternative for you, Jyotsna, would be to put your 12-year-old in front of the “pack” – and give him the responsibility for making sure that you all stop safely at intersections. At age 12, he will most likely enjoy having that role and respect it. This is important is because if you are in front, and looking backwards to make sure that your kids are ok, you are far more likely to get into an accident yourself.

    There are also great tricycles out there, with one or two seats in back. Or tandem bicycles where you can bicycle with one or two of your children. And for babies and toddlers, there are lots of different bicycling options to choose from – Kirk has linked to some above.

    Good luck! And please check back at my website from time to time – I’ll try to post a new article about this in the next few weeks.

  • Frank

    My neighborhood in suburban cincinnati is part of the great suburban sprawl with the arterial streets widing, narrow and busy with no bike paths. There is a bike trail, but I have to put the bike on the car to safely get there.

  • [...] presents Will Americans Ever Bicycle Like The Rest Of The World? posted at One Green Generation.  This is an interesting question and challenge to the U.S.  [...]

  • Stephanie, I have asthma too, and yeah, the thought of an attack well into a ride scares me, too. I’ve been building up little by little and it’s been helping as I get back into shape, but I’m really careful about it. I always bring my rescue inhaler and if I’m feeling at all iffy I have a hit from it before I even start out.

    Don’t blame you for starting somewhere flat — I’ll go fast down the little hills I have in town but anything too steep is pretty scary. And up just doesn’t bear thinking about. I go as far as I can and then walk. No shame in it!

    Now I just need to learn how to change my tire, which is totally flat…

  • Kate, yes, there’s no shame in it — there’s just nowhere near my home that’s flat. Okay, I take that back. Go down a steep, long hill and you get to all the flat town square area. But going down and up that hill, just walking, is enough for me for now.

    Good luck figuring out how to change your tire!

  • Thanks! I’m gonna look around YouTube and see if I can find a video…

  • [...] when you’re already going out. And if you live within a mile or two, think about walking or biking [...]

  • A`V Lowe

    Interesting to read how ingrained some of the attitudes are – even with the ‘converts’.

    Much comes from the way we have accepted practice – I only shop where I can wheel the bike into the store and load it up. In cycling countries bikes are soled as vehicles with realistic features like luggage (and passenger) carrying racks – guards for the dirty parts (road muck and oil from transmission) so that people can ride in ‘white’ suits and keep them clean without trouser clips etc.

    Don’t rely on mirrors! the cyclist has a massive benefit over a motorist – a full 360 awarenes of whats happening around them and perfect that look back – in the UK motorcyclists call this the lifesaver, and urge people to do it even when they have a full set of mirrors.

    Look at Return of the Scorcher by Ted White (just down the coast in OR), and read the Oxcam Survey of 5000 cyclists in Oxford and Cambridge UK – women feature in 75% of UK truck left turn fatalities despite being a smaller proportion of the cycling population, and the report that they have problems looking back – probably because they are riding bikes built for men (with higher arm length-torso length ratio) and have a corrspondingly higher rate of crashes caused by poor rearward observation….

    Ditch the focus on helmets – in countries where cycling is commonplace helmet wearing rates are in single figures and often less than 1% of cyclists – the lid is not a st cristopeher talisman and is hardly any use in a crash with any motor vehicle. As to falls your body comes readily equipped with a protective cover for the brain which has, through evolution been fine tuned to protect against ipacts at running speed (around 20mph) as hunters and others running through open country had to survive trips and falls – Darwin sorted out the defective equipment issue. Basically most fit human frames should survive 20mph crashes with bruising and cuts unless the built environment or a vehicle they are using presents an ‘unnatural’ element. Helmets in this respect are actually more necessary in cars, as head injuries in cars feature at a higher rate in car crashes than the position for cycles.

    Cycle pure cycle fixed – and go for the nirvana – fixed, direct drive and solid tyres! (after all the carbon footprint of tyre manufacture ust be appalling unless they can recover that carbon to put in the carbon powder colouring for the neoprene (oil product) which is used in place of the natural latex.

  • AV Lowe, Thank you for your great comment!

    My only qualm is with your words about helmets. My husband has worked with the UCLA Brain Injury Research Center for several years, and quite a few cases of head trauma are caused by bicyclists not wearing helmets. When bicyclists do wear helmets and suffer a blow to the head, there is rarely brain trauma. It is a very significant difference.

    The brain is not evolved to survive the impact of steel weighing several tons hitting you at speeds far exceeding 10mph (a 20mph crash is the equivalent of your riding at 10mph and colliding with a car going 10mph), nor the concrete pavement.

    Since helmets are not very costly and could very well save your life (or your QUALITY of life), it is important to deal with the minor inconvenience of wearing them.

    Having said all this, I’m very glad that you’re advocating for the overall increased acceptance and convenience of bicycle use. Thank you!!

  • A V Lowe

    It seems quite likely that a Brain Injury Research Groups will see a disportionate amount of brain injuries to the general level – a) because its their work and they are looking out for examples and b) because people refer such examples to them. That saidf figures suggest that proportionally there is a far higher rate of head injuries for car occupants than for cyclists involved in crashes, so if cyclists need lids then more so doi car occupanst and I’ve even seen a car rider helmet to be worn inside a car.

    This of course would be ridiculed by car users as it destroys the convenience of using a car for a risk which is relatively small and smaller still for cyclists – In around 40 years of non competitive cycling I’ve had a few crashes – wrote a car off (it hit me) and fractured my jaw and hip in crashes – and a helmet would have made no difference in these crashes – if anything I would have been killed in 2 of them had I been wearing a helmet

    That said, just as drivers in compertitive events wear flame proof suits and helmets , so cyclists in competitive events should wear appropriate protective equipment – and the bunch of bananas headgear evolved to suit racing cyclists, just as the full face system is designed for downhill riders.

  • And yet what about those bicycle accidents that happen where someone would probably be killed if that person hadn’t been wearing a helmet? Personally I think it’s safer to wear the helmet. Safe than sorry. I don’t understand how you might be killed while wearing a helmet.

  • A V Lowe

    There are a number of wider ranging reviews which note that the major serious injuries to the brain are not caused by impact but rotation and other severe acceleration – these are enhanced when the leverage of the forces from a tangential impact is enhanced by having a head some 15-20% larger with a nice grippy polystyrene structure to ‘bite’ on impact. Several broken necks (in the critical C1-C5 vertebra range) are linked to the wearing of a helmet. With the added weight and size your head may well be more likely to hit something and as Joh n Adams and others working on risk compensation point out, wearing a helmet like wearing a seat belt engenders more reckless behaviour in te belief you are miraculously protected from all ills….

    The there is the reasoned wisdom that rather than doing something to mitigate the effects of a crash it might be a better use of resources to eliminate the hazards to start with. For a start we need to blow-out the thinking that it is safer to ride on a sidewalk – the crash rates are between 4 and 8 times higher than for riding on the road.

  • I don’t expect very many people to ride as far as I have, 70 km to San Francisco and Oakland, 100 km to Hollister, also rides to Santa Cruz, Half Moon Bay, Sausalito, and Sunol. My favorite biking route has very heavy car traffic (El Camino Real). I have biked to San Francisco 21 times, several of these rides ended with theft, despite the bike being locked.

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