Where two wheels rule

“People, it seems, find it hard to believe that the cure for congestion is not more facilities for congestion.”
Lewis Mumford, American historian, writer, specialist in urban architecture, 1895-1990

For many bicyclists, Copenhagen is Shangri-La — a place where the world is ordered as they figure it should be.
It’s a place where nearly everyone rides a bike, where bike lanes are on a par with auto lanes, where more than half the city’s adult population commutes to work by bike every day, where cars are a secondary means of transportation.

Illustration by Tatsuro Kiuchi

“The sights, sounds and smells of a city are all at the mercy of whatever rules its streets,” says CNN correspondent Richard Quest, reporting from the Danish capital for a CNN series about “green cities of the future.”
“Here in Copenhagen, it’s bicycles.”
Copenhagen has long been a model for U.S. cycling advocates trying to make their own cities more bicycle-friendly. Some American cities are just now coming to the realization that more roads, more lanes and more cars are not the solution to traffic congestion. And a few have taken the lead — Minneapolis, Portland, Ore., and Boulder, Colo., for example.
But in Copenhagen that realization came much earlier.
“Fifty years ago, every street in Copenhagen was full of wall-to-wall traffic. All the squares were parking lots,” urban planning consultant Jan Gehl says in the CNN report. “At that point, it was decided to push back the traffic. So gradually, it’s become safer and more convenient. And when this has happened more and more people have taken to the bicycle.”
Over the past five decades, Copenhagen has become “so good at making this city bicycle-friendly, it’s given the world a new word: Copenhagenization,” says the CNN reporter as he zips along on his bike.
“The concept of Copenhagenization has become a celebrated form of urban planning,” Quest says against a backdrop of cyclists riding along on Copenhagen’s streets. “It refers to what you see before you — a city that doesn’t just make cycling possible, but redesigns its streets to make it the norm.”
“And why is it called Copenhagenization?” asks Gehl. “That is because Copenhagen was absolutely the very first one who started along this road.”
A friend who lived for a time in Copenhagen and has a son who was born there posted the CNN video on Facebook and suggested it be required viewing in Arlington, a city sandwiched between Fort Worth and Dallas. Arlington proposed an ambitious plan to reduce traffic lanes on some thoroughfares and add bike lanes, but it has scaled back the plan in the face of a vocal opposition. The next in a series of public hearings on the plan is expected to be held June 14.
The opponents argue that bike lanes will slow down traffic, eat up parking spots for local businesses and make driving more dangerous because of an expected increase in the number of cyclists.
There’s even a strain of thought that adopting any idea from Europe — whether it be about bike lanes, public transportation, healthcare or creation of neighborhoods where shops, services, schools and restaurants are a short walk or a bike ride away — will put the United States on a slippery slope to socialism.
Arlington, by the way, has a population of about 375,000 and is home to the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, the Texas Rangers baseball team and a large campus of the University of Texas. But it was described by The New York Times in a story about this year’s Super Bowl XLV as a “drab, featureless city a little closer to Fort Worth than to Dallas.” And, it has the dubious distinction of being the largest city in the United States without any public transportation.
Some U.S. cities have made a good start and others, like Arlington, are trying to become more bicycle-friendly. But, sadly, car-centric America has a long way to go to becoming a cycling Shangri-La.
Click on the link below to view the CNN report.



1 Comment

Filed under Journeys, Texana, Urban cycling

One response to “Where two wheels rule

  1. Hi Jim. The push back against the move to promote bicycling in towns and cities is to be expected, but should be met with a better argument. The resistance could be greater cost, confusion over right-of-way, etc. But I read the debate this way: do you want a high standard of living, or a high quality of life?
    The standard of living crowd promotes quick access to things, so that they can move easily in their ever bigger vehicle. The quality of life crowd suggests that there is pleasure to be had in riding and fresh air.
    I moved from Florida to Germany because I value quality of life over standard of living. Sure, we have our share of cars, but they are clean and bicycle access is everywhere.

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