Progress on Two Wheels

City of Copenhagen

Image via Wikipedia

The always-fascinating BLDGBLOG reports from Copenhagen, where 500,000 people bike to work or school every day and the city is built, to an inspiring and enviable degree, around human-powered transport. With the Danish capital set to host the global climate summit in December, the world’s mediasphere may soon be awash with images of attractive Scandinavians cruising their lovely city in a state of two-wheeled bliss. I see no downside here. It’s all just another sign of the dawn of a Golden Age of cycling, as the state-subsidized Automotive Reich crumbles before the grassroots yeoman democracy of the bike.

Of course, there are always the haters, naysayers and layabouts to account for. Here in Portland, the city just unveiled an “experimental” new variety of bike lane which turns one downtown thoroughfare’s usual line of parked cars into a de facto barrier between bikes and auto traffic. Even in America’s most bike-friendly city (arguably), and even though this model works perfectly well in many European cities, the move has engendered the usual pseudo-populist backlash. (I do not intend to malign the legitimate debate, carried on in mostly civil tones among local cyclists, over whether the new lane works as intended.) Most of the criticisms pack about the same logical weight as the townhall battlecry of “This is America! We want our country back!” That won’t stop them, of course. The dumb, like the poor, are always with us.


About zachdundas

Freelance journalist. Author of The Renegade Sportsman (Riverhead Books). Thank you.
This entry was posted in Cycling, Politics and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Progress on Two Wheels

  1. Caitlin Kelly says:

    I wonder how differently cyclists behave in places like Denmark or Holland where there are so many of them. Toronto is reeling right now from a cyclist killed by a prominent politician after the cyclist tried to attack him in the open convertible he was driving after a minor collision. With so much pent up rage, crowded streets and cops never around when you need them, cars and cyclists seem to have a rough time getting along. I never really got it until I drove in NYC and several cyclists veered into my lane, forcing me to do likewise, almost caused me and my vehicle serious harm. Then I understood how quickly tempers can rise.

  2. In biking countries like Denmark, Belgium or the Netherlands (and don’t forget China and Vietnam!) car drivers know they can find a cyclist where they least expect them. But still there are a lot of accidents – in absolute figures of course, not in percentage of the bikers. Since a couple of years there is a law in the Netherlands that protects bikers, especially after collisions with a car. It doesn’t help them physically, but it does financially.
    One day the bikers will take over in most civilised countries, I am certain. There will be special biking highways (Dutch ministry of Traffic announced this week that it will spend tens of millions on it) and huge tax benefits. We will just have to accept that in the meantime bad temper on either side will lead to a lot more accidents than we all want to happen (like the terrible one in Toronto, Caitlin).
    DISCLAIMER: this guy is a happy and fanatic cyclist who uses his car only for (very) long distance traveling. 😉

  3. Caitlin Kelly says:

    I’m all in favor of city cycling, and one of my I have a Toronto friend — who’s 58 — who cycles many miles every day to her reporting job. But when cyclists are sloppy or dangerous, and force car drivers into dangerous situations by dodging in and out of traffic or ignoring signals and signs, it can make drivers crazy. Then, when or if there is a confrontation, the cyclist (this happened to me in Manhattan, and apparently this happened in the Toronto killing as well), the cyclist slaps or kicks or bangs the car in revenge, knowing they can simply speed away scot-free. It’s not a pretty picture.
    I gave up city cycling decades ago after one too many cars ignored my presence even when I was being safe.

  4. Pingback: Zach Dundas - Renegade Sportsman – Cycling’s Urban Wheels of Gold - True/Slant

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