Wednesday, April 13, 2011

If you can cycle here you can cycle anywhere...New York, New York!

Photo by John Öberg

If you can cycle here, you can cycle anywhere...New York, New York!

They now have cycling lanes in Times Square. How difficult must that have been? Apparently many said it would not be possible. But in just a few short years the impossible has become reality. If they can make these changes in car-is-king New York, then surely we can make Ottawa more bike friendly. This is a brief excerpt from an article written for Dagens Nyheter (DagensNyheter) by reporter John Öberg. Dagens Nyheter is the largest newspaper in Sweden. The translation is by Google with some editing by me.

Saying bicycle and New York in the same sentence will cause most people who have visited the city to think of death-defying bike messengers who throw themselves between the yellow taxis, vans and limos along the avenues. Or rare families on bike rides in Central Park.

But in just a few years, New York City transformed from a cyclist's nightmare into a great city for cycling. There are 1700 kilometres of marked bicycle paths on Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. The city hands out good bike maps for free and, of course, the proportion of cycling New Yorkers has increased. Similarly, tourists on two wheels have increased and now see the city from new angles.

New York had America's first bike lanes in 1894. But soon the car took over more and more. The city has a good system of public transport, which may account for why only ten percent of Manhattan residents own a car. In the summer of 2008, attempts were made to close some streets off to cars for the benefit of cyclists even if only for a few days. It was a great success and since then the network of bike lanes has grown rapidly, in part as a result of bicycle activists who were pushing for this but also as a result of far-sighted politicians. Often the lanes are only a painted line, as in many Swedish cities, but more and more cycle routes are being separated from the cars with curbs.

It's quite simple really. You start with a painted line here and a segregated lane there...maybe a Sunday road closure becomes a weekend road closure? Before you know it you'll have a cycle city!

I think it's really not that complicated. We just need to change the thinking in this city from "why we can't do it" to one of "how can we do it".

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