I’ve ridden when it was common and all my friends did it – childhood – and when hardly anyone else did – including none of my friends or anyone else I knew for that matter. I rode when it was rare to see an adult on a bike, and even rarer to see an adult female. Probably the “where” I lived and biked (Oklahoma) also had a lot to do with my solitary experience as a bike rider.
Nevertheless here we are in 2015 and bikes are common. Heck, bikes are cool! And it’s not just the cool kids riding – young, old, female, male, rich and poor alike are riding in record numbers. Granted not as many females, but the numbers are growing, and most riders are still white, but that’s improving too.
I see many more people riding bikes now than any other year I can remember. I read and hear more about bicycling than at any other time I can recall. More cities and states are developing bicycle master plans, incorporating Complete Streets concepts into road plans and improvements, discussing and planning how to make their cities and communities more hospitable for people. In the past many of these conversations and efforts focused on finding more space for vehicles.
Look at bike share. Every major city in the U.S. and many not so major cities have bike share programs now. According to Grist, “the combined fleet of shared bikes in the United States grew to above 18,000 (in 2013), more than a doubling since the start of the year (2013)”. Many colleges and universities also have bike share programs.
For some individuals the first time they get back on a bike as adults is renting a bike through bike share, and for some of them no doubt, it is just the beginning.
Things are looking up for bikes and those of us who love riding and for those of you who would like to ride but haven’t taken that step – foot on the pedal if you will – yet. A recent study that I can’t put my hands on at the moment found that 1/3rd of the respondents who did not presently bicycle stated they would like to but hadn’t because they didn’t feel safe.
Imagine if the number of people biking grew by 33%! Safety would improve, studies have repeatedly shown the more people bicycling the safer it is for all us. Infrastructure would improve, bicyclists would have a larger voice and demand and support programs and people who supported bicycling. Many of the health related problems facing us would improve – obesity, heart disease, diabetes, depression, to name a few.
The numbers of Americans commuting by bike has certainly grown. According to League of American Bicyclists, “since 2005, states have seen, on average, a 46% increase in the share of people commuting by bike”.
Today is Bike to Work Day, this month is National Bike Month and this year has more people on bikes than in previous years – and most importantly – it hasn’t peaked and things are still improving. No doubt there is still much to do. We are in the infancy stage of creating an equal status for bicyclists, and pedestrians too, on our streets and roads, in our communities, but we should also take time to celebrate the gains we have made.
We’ve come a long way baby!