Sunlit Water

October 5, 2009

Bicycles For All

Filed under: Transportation — by teofilo @ 4:35 pm

This discussion of bicycling in Denmark is interesting, and it reminds me of a similar dynamic that I’ve encountered here in New Jersey.  In my immediate area (Highland Park and New Brunswick), distances and infrastructure are such that pretty much everything you need is easily accessible by walking, and that’s how I get around.  All those things are, however, much more quickly and easily accessible by biking, so lots of people bike.  While in many parts of the US biking is associated with a certain socioeconomic group, here, as apparently in Denmark, it’s much more widespread.  Lots of cyclists are the expected young, educated white people, mostly Rutgers students and faculty, but at least as many are Mexican immigrants of all ages, and a broad cross-section of other parts of society is also represented.  Unlike in Denmark, however, the transportation system here isn’t designed for bikes at all.  The roads are narrow and crowded, and I have yet to see one with any sort of bike lane, so people mostly bike on the sidewalk, which is also narrow and crowded.  Everything’s just on a very small scale, and while plenty of the roads are oriented toward cars, very few were designed for the amount of traffic they now get.  The traffic jams in Highland Park are absurd for such a small town.  This, however, actually makes biking even more attractive in some ways, since it means that for a great many trips biking is not only faster than walking, it’s also faster than driving.  The driving force behind all of this, however, is just the density and socioeconomic profile of the area, not any deliberate policy choices to encourage biking, which makes it sound much like the pre-1970s Danish situation.  Obviously rather few places in the US are like this, so the general implications are probably fairly limited, but it’s interesting to see the dynamics in action.



  1. A recent Scientific American blurb claims that gender plays a role:

    “If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the detailed ‘bikeability indexes’—just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female,” says Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and author of several studies on biking and gender differences.

    Women are considered an “indicator species” for bike-friendly cities for several reasons. First, studies across disciplines as disparate as criminology and child ­rearing have shown that women are more averse to risk than men. In the cycling arena, that risk aversion translates into increased demand for safe bike infrastructure as a prerequisite for riding. Women also do most of the child care and household shopping, which means these bike routes need to be organized around practical urban destinations to make a difference.

    “Despite our hope that gender roles don’t exist, they still do,” says Jennifer Dill, a transportation and planning researcher at Portland State University. Addressing women’s concerns about safety and utility “will go a long way” toward increasing the number of people on two wheels, Dill explains.

    (Via Feministing.)

    Comment by Witt — October 5, 2009 @ 8:52 pm |Reply

  2. Yeah, Yglesias had an earlier post on that. Anecdotally, while I see quite a few women biking, they are definitely heavily outnumbered by men.

    Comment by teofilo — October 5, 2009 @ 10:34 pm |Reply

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