A couple weeks ago, I visited Davis, California to check out its world-class bicycle planning, which held up as being truly remarkable. But trying to better incorporate bikes into a city's transportation system is not just about implementing clever or innovative ideas, it's also about overcoming decades of poor planning and bureaucratic inertia. A great exploration of exactly how difficult a task that is can be found in Dave Neiwert's piece, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, which details the reasons why Seattle, despite being a hotbed of green thinking, still stinks as a place to ride:
[T]he Seattle area's oft-touted bicycling system is actually a happenstance, an often broken network that doesn't function particularly well, especially when it comes to providing a complete infrastructure that could encourage people to take up bike commuting.
A 2005 study by the Cascade Bicycle Club, titled "Left by the Side of the Road," found that even though the Puget Sound region boasts a 1,521-mile bicycle network, "many needed improvements are necessary to turn this . . . into a true, working system." It found that 27 percent of the existing network "fails to meet the basic needs of bicyclists. This means that bicyclists attempting to navigate the region face severe safety hazards and sometimes insurmountable accessibility challengesand there are no practical alternative routes."
Some of this has to do with an entrenched transportation bureaucracy that is often skeptical about the costs and benefits of accommodating bicycles, and that translates into reluctance on the part of policy-makers to make the kinds of changes that might make the network [function well].
Having lived in Seattle for seven years, Connecticut for 11 and now in Boulder, i agree with the author's findings. Seattle is a good place to ride, bikes are visible yearround, but in terms of an actual network, it could be greatly improved. The Burke Gilman is the exception, but at times it's so crowded, it's quicker to take to the riskier Sandpoint Way. And, outside of Seattle, the burbs dont really get it.
The worst place I've lived in terms of biking is Boston. The MBTA drivers force you off the road there [I guess they're p.o'd about a lost fare]. And, when you take a lane [since you can almost always go faster than cars there), the type A's in the car cuss at you.
I was expecting a Boston type experience in Connecticut, but have been pleasantly surprised. Nirvana its not, but even Hartford has put in bike lanes recently.
Boston is bad for bikes but Los Angeles is even worse and the drivers are openly mean to bicyclists here. Most bikers in LA do it out of fiscal necessity yet there are very few bike lanes or action groups helping get people safely biking in the city. The old "CartownUSA" moniker doesn't help....even diehard bikers get trapped into believing that you must have a car to live in this city.
The respected alternative here are motorbikes and motorcycles; I'm now looking for an enginneer who can take old Honda scooters and bikes and fit them for electric power. Any ideas?