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How Bike-Loving Mayors Make Bike-Friendly Cities

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Swalfoort

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Oct 8 2013 at 8:49am #

From http://www.triplepundit.com

I am hoping that this really does turn out to be a direct causal relationship…….

How Bike-Loving Mayors Make Bike-Friendly Cities
By Lonnie Shekhtman | October 8th, 2013

The amount of driving per person in America has held steady since 1996, and even declined among younger generations, according to a recent report by advocacy organization U.S. PIRG.

If these trends continue, they will impact transportation policy at all levels of government. In fact, they already have at the municipal level, where U.S. mayors are diversifying their cities’ portfolios of transportation options in the hopes of looking to attract attracting and retaining startups and their employees, reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality.

In order to make his city the most bike-friendly one in the country when he took office in 1989, former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley formed a Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, developed a cycling master plan, and secured funding for his vision from the federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program.

He was re-elected five times. When he left office in 2011, Chicago had more than 100 miles of bike lanes, thousands of racks throughout the city, and a bike-friendly reputation.

His successor, Rahm Emanuel, continues to carry Daley’s cycling torch. His administration’s cycling plan has proposed to create a 500-mile network of bike routes by the end of this decade, “establishing a bikeway within a half-mile of every Chicago resident,” according to the plan.

In 2012, Emanuel got rid of a car lane in Chicago’s business district to make room for two-way, protected bike lanes, along with their own stoplights. Emanuel, like many other mayors, believes that more bike lanes will attract more technology startups.

To date, at least perception-wise, he might be on to something.

At a celebratory event to open the new lanes in December 2012, the mayor pointed out the connection between Chicago’s bike-friendly cred and its startup-friendly reputation.

According to Gridchicago.com, a sustainable transportation blog, the mayor told the crowd, “The city of Chicago moved from tenth to fifth of most bike-friendly cities in the country in one year. … In the same year, the city of Chicago moved from fifteenth to tenth worldwide in startup economy. … You cannot be for a startup, high-tech economy and not be pro-bike.’”

This summer, Chicago’s Department of Transportation started rolling out its bike-share program, nicknamed “Divvy,” which cost the city nearly $28 million, mostly covered by federal funds. According to the Chicago Tribune, when the program was less than two months old, in August, it had already enrolled about 5,000 annual members, at $75 each, and had sold more than 37,000 24-hour passes, at $7 each.

New York City and its bike-loving mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, launched a highly anticipated bike-sharing program this year, as well, having spent the previous five years installing more than 350 miles of bike lanes.

“A bike-sharing program would provide New Yorkers with another transportation option while reducing traffic,” said a 2010 press release from the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT).

Although Citibank-sponsored program has faced criticism about safety and the amount of valuable street space the bike kiosks take up, the program had 6,000 bikes at several hundred stations; 70,000 annual members, at $95 each; and a hard time keeping up with the demand as of August, about three months from launch, according to The New York Times.

A New York Times poll from August 2012 showed that 66 percent of New Yorkers support the bike lanes. And they’re clearly using them, because the city reached its goal of doubling bicycle commuting between 2007 and 2012 a year early, in 2011, according to the DOT.

The two leading New York City mayoral candidates — Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee, and Joseph J. Lhota, the Republican nominee — say they support continued expansion of the bike-lane program, although Lhota says he would move around some lanes that he considers to be problematic.

Boston’s outgoing Mayor Thomas M. Menino launched a cycling program in 2007 and declared in 2009, “the car is no longer the king in Boston,” calling for healthier citizens and communities. This is after seeing his city ranked as one of the country’s worst biking cities in Bicycling magazine. Today, it’s still not in the top 10, but the mayor—and the candidates to succeed him—seems committed to improving the program to make it more expansive and safe.

Menino’s administration has installed more than 60 miles of bike lanes and 1,000 bike racks and launched the Hubway bike-share system in 2011. Just this year, the mayor released a Cyclist Safety Report, promising to reduce the city’s crash injury rate by 50 percent by 2020 and is supposed to install helmet vending machines at several bike-share kiosks around town any day now.

Like New York, Boston has doubled its cycling rates in recent years, so the mayors’ efforts are paying off.

And it’s not just the New Yorks, Bostons and Chicagos of the world that are getting on board. The trend towards multimodal transport can be seen in cities far and wide, including Chattanooga, Tenn.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Madison, WI; and Louisville, Ky.

This is a very positive sign for millennials who prefer to live in walkable and urban neighborhoods and for all of us who prefer less car traffic and lung congestion.


Vannevar

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Oct 8 2013 at 9:00am #

I was out on the GAP on Sunday with SR and we encountered Tom Murphy riding at the Pump House. It was a pleasure to shake his hand (again) and thank him (again) for the trails and the city he built. I very much live in his vision of Pittsburgh.

There’s just not too many times when you’re talking with your buds and you see a politician and say, hey excuse me I have to go thank somebody.


edmonds59

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Oct 8 2013 at 9:18am #

It’s really a shame that both Emanuel and Bloomberg are big steaming jerkwads in so many other significant ways.


Swalfoort

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Oct 8 2013 at 11:01am #

Oh, yes, well, that……

Thanks for the damper, Edmonds!


byogman

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Oct 8 2013 at 11:14am #

Big changes are often driven by people with big egos.

Doesn’t make them less of a jerkwad that they accomplish some good, but their being a jerkwad also doesn’t diminish the good they accomplish.

Note, saying that w.r.t. bike infrastructure only. Don’t know either Mayor’s policy’s any deeper than Bloomberg’s laughable crusade to ban large cups of soda.


edmonds59

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Oct 8 2013 at 11:25am #

For me good bike infrastructure doesn’t really fully offset Bloomberg’s policy of criminalizing homelessness, or the actual criminal police force, or Emanuel’s methodical dismantling of the Chicago public school system.
Sorry’s.


Drewbacca

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Oct 8 2013 at 3:05pm #

I’m surprised that they didn’t mention Seattle’s mayor who is a cyclist.

Rahm’s cycling improvements in Chicago are nice, it’s cool to be here and witness it first hand. I don’t have quite the same criticism as edmonds in regards to the public school closings and the increased number of charter schools… it’s a complicated issue and part of the political give-and-take. I’m not a big fan of Rahm being on the take side, but the whole thing is still playing itself out from what I’ve gathered listening to WBEZ.


Pierce

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Oct 8 2013 at 3:35pm #

It certainly is; public schools in poor, predominantly nonwhite neighborhoods can’t be dismantled overnight thankfully.

I was thinking the same thing Bill. Bloomberg put in some bike lanes. He also has spent the last decade? persecuting black and latino men just walking around, something other cities have joined in on.

Hitler probably built pretty decent infrastructure too, but it’s not what historians remember about him


byogman

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Oct 8 2013 at 3:48pm #

Oh dear. Your point is fine and all, but best to tone it down: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin’s_law


Pierce

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Oct 8 2013 at 4:17pm #

I run into this in veganism all the time.

Hitler killed people with mental retardation, we use (a human centric) intelligence as one of many ways to discriminate against nonhumans, what’s the difference?

On a related note:

http://www.vosizneias.com/136302/2013/07/18/new-york-weiner-draws-ire-of-jews-after-comparing-stop-and-frisk-to-nazi-germany/

I imagine if the Pittsburgh Police were stopping and frisking hasidic jews in front of their homes and asking for licenses, there would be outrage here too. I think the problem with the Police doing it with black and latino men is that we’re already predisposed to seeing them as criminals and so it’s okay to stop them

In conclusion, it’s hard to be triumphant about a bike lane when the minorities of our city (and I here it’s worse in the suburbs) don’t feel safe walking home at night alone when a cop(s) drives by.


reddan

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Oct 9 2013 at 6:07am #

In conclusion, it’s hard to be triumphant about a bike lane when the minorities of our city (and I here it’s worse in the suburbs) don’t feel safe walking home at night alone when a cop(s) drives by.

Why? One has nothing to do with the other. The existence of unrelated evil in the world is no reason to discount good things.


edmonds59

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Oct 9 2013 at 6:33am #

I suppose my point would be that, when diametrically opposed policies are put forward by individuals (i.e. Bloomberg, Emanuel), my support for those individuals would have to be guided by criteria that I find to be ethically “higher”, that is, if an individual supports separated bike lanes with massage, espresso, and pastry stands every mile, but won’t remove thugs from the police force or even change policy, I would have to send my support elsewhere.
I do love Janette Sadik-Kahn, though.


reddan

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Oct 9 2013 at 7:13am #

@Bill: makes perfect sense to me, when evaluating an individual and their actions. I was responding to Pierce’s assertion that it’s hard to be happy about bike lanes when there is evidence of systematic police prejudice in Pittsburgh (assuming, of course, that “the minorities of our city” means da ‘Burgh…if something else was meant, then I apologize for misunderstanding).

I must admit, though, I’d be happy to ride on a glass-smooth bike highway, even if the person who signed the original paperwork had an ugly little toothbrush moustache, some truly astonishing anger issues, and a belief that ideology matters more than people…


jonawebb

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Oct 9 2013 at 7:55am #

Something I’ve found interesting is that the more democratic a government is, the less likely it is to invest in infrastructure. Dictators love to build monuments to themselves, and are in charge of the people and resources necessary to make them happen. But in a democracy, nobody wants to “waste” money on public spending, which comes from taxes, and inevitably involves a certain amount of waste. Everybody can fight back against the appropriation of land needed for the development, nobody wants it to happen in their backyard, etc.
So these mayors may be more successful in building infrastructure for the same reason they are less sensitive to civil rights issues; they are more autocratic in general.
OTOH they could have been building automobile infrastructure instead. At least we get bike lanes out of it.

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