Bike Boom More Than Just a Fad

| 3/18/2013 2:18:14 PM

Tags: bike boom, bikes, bike culture, urban mobility, Urban Times,

This article originally appeared on Urban Times, the online publisher network dedicated to optimistic forward-thinking. 

The rise of the car in the 1950s and ’60s completely transformed cities — first across the USA, and then the world. Once centered on walkable shopping districts and train lines, cities began to spread into vast suburbs and homogenous landscapes. Cars didn’t only change our cities, but they also changed our way of thinking. The car became a symbol of freedom, a symbol of maturity and a form of identity in the western world. Bikes are also having a renewed surge of popularity. 

Today, we are seeing cities across the globe turn to alternative forms of mobility, and trains, trams and buses are back on the planning agenda in a big way. 60 years ago, one of the world’s most extensive tram networks (180 miles) was destroyed in Sydney, Australia, to make way for the private car. Today, the city is once again investing billions into a new light rail system that it hopes will relieve some of the city’s severe congestion.

We’re also seeing (re)investment into bicycle infrastructure in downtown districts across the globe. Over the last few years, cities like New York have constructed hundreds of miles of bike paths and bike share schemes are popping up in every corner of the globe — from Hangzhou’s Public Bicycle, to Paris’ Vélib to Montreal’s Bixi.

Bikes are also having a renewed surge of popularity. Portland hipsters are taking to the streets on fixies, east Londoners are dusting off vintage Raleighs and Sydney corporates are swapping golf clubs for lycra. As a result, the growth in cycling numbers has been immense in many cities worldwide. Italy has recently recorded that bike sales have outsripped car sales for the first time since World War II; the number of commuter cyclists in New York has doubled over the last five years; and for the first time in decades, a London borough (Hackney) has recorded that more people cycle to work (15 percent) than drive (12 percent).

Is all of this a revolution, or is it simply an urban fad?

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