Bike Lanes are Not for Cyclists--so who *are* they for?| Beyond the Automobile

Headlines are quick hits from media outlets from Missouri and around the world. Follow the headline link for the full story. The source of this headline says:

very day, people make decisions on how they will travel. Some choose to drive, while others take transit. For short trips, many people choose to walk. Increasingly in many cities, people are now choosing to travel by bike. What’s been learned from countless recent cycling projects is that when you make improvements that make travelling by bicycle safer, more people choose to ride bikes.

Which brings me to my point: bike lanes are not for cyclists – they’re for people who ride bikes. Ordinary people, wearing ordinary clothes, who have chosen to travel by bike. Most don’t identify as “cyclists”, they won’t yell at you for cutting them off, they don’t blatantly run red lights, and you definitely won’t catch them sporting Lycra. Every morning, they simply get dressed for work, hop on their bikes, and enjoy the convenience of cycling.

Take Toronto, for example. As of August, the Toronto Bike Share had already surpassed last year’s ridership, a protected bike lane pilot on Bloor Street led to a 49% increase in cycling volumes in less than a year, and the city’s bikeway on Richmond was carrying up to 674 bikes in a single hour. Even local conservative reporter Sue-Ann Levy has taken an interest in cycling, admitting so being a “born-again cyclist”. In vast stretches of the city, more and more people are riding bikes. Where is this growth coming from? More annoying “cyclists”? Nope – Toronto’s cycling growth is coming from more normal people choosing to ride bikes.

Every time cities add new bike lanes, the cycling network grows, and travelling by bicycle becomes a safe, convenient option for more people.

MoBikeFed comment: This trend has been very, very clear in Missouri. Communities that spend a little time and effort building bicycle facilities find that the amount of bicycling tracks very closely with the quality of their system.

Communities like Columbia, Springfield, and St. Louis that have been building out their systems for a while have by far the most bicycling. Cities like Kansas City that got a later start--and so have fewer good facilities--have noticeably more people bicycling than they did previously, but are well behind the cities that got an earlier start.

Communities that have put little or no investment into bikeways or trails have very few people bicycling.

People don't change--but when you change their environment for the better by making safer places to walk or bicycle, their behavior certainly does change.

U.S. Census data shows some of the differences between Missouri cities:

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