Wednesday, July 18, 2012

It's possible!

last week i was pleasantly surprised to see that a main road in cambridge suddenly became divided in car and cycle path. this was done by just converting the 2-lane road for cars into a 1 lane. but... much needs to change before boston/cambridge can (will it, ever?) become a bike friendly city. i think attitudes from both drivers and bikers need to change (as you can see above, that car in the background is driving on the bikelane!!).
here in boston we often see bikers and tim or me usually say: "ouch, they really just dont know how to do it". people here generally dont know HOW to bike! seriously! they position themselves wrong on the street, they think they have the right of way anywhere, simply because they are on a bike (the past week i was almost knocked down by bikes twice while i was in the middle of the crosswalk). bikers are often very aggressive here and they really do not realize that they are PART of the traffic, and should work with it, not against it! and yes, sometimes a car will cut you off, and thats nasty, but dont endanger yourself more. sometimes just accept that this happens and move aside! a car is much much bigger than you and its not worth it! (conclusion after seeing several bikers screaming at cars, cutting right in front of them as they think they have the right to go first, regardless of what else is happening on the street). fact: dutch bikers break rules all the time as well, but they do it much more subtle! (generally, ofcourse, there are idiots everywhere). they run red lights, but only when possible, and usually we do not run over pedestrians.
still, even when bicyclists know how to behave properly on the road and motorists acknowledge their existence, the biggest change needed i think are separate bike lanes (i dont think helmets are the solution; see yesterdays comments). they are appearing at several streets in boston, but the problem is that they are not continuous; suddenly theres an intersection where theres nowhere to go with your bike! until i saw a youtube video about biking in the netherlands, i always thought that biking is so easy and safe in my country because it has always been like that, and cities were basically built around bikes. not so. i really urge you to watch this video, it explains very well how we eventually got to the amazing bike infrastructure we have today. like any wealthy country, cars flooded the netherlands from 1957 onwards, making biking dangerous (which used to be the main form of transportation). in 1971, when 3300 bicyclists died in traffic, people were fed up and started to protest and demand safer streets. it worked. cycling was strongly encouraged; city centers were made car free and cycle paths were constructed. an oil and economic crisis certainly also helped to get more and more people biking again.
and now... say "cycle paths" out loud. now "how the dutch got their cycle paths". now watch the video again... (did you say it out loud.. ? :D)

6 comments:

Jack said...

Good post, CaT. Considering that this is all new for the Americans, I think the bike lane you show us today is a great start. I was in Amsterdam last December and was floored about how many bicycles there are and how everyone seems to know how to deal with the combination of cars, bikes and pedestrians. But, as you have said, it takes time to get there.

Pierre BOYER said...

A good thing...
:-)

Pierre

biebkriebels said...

Wow, you have a mission to get the americans on a bike. It will take a long time I am afraid. The videos are nice, brings back memories of the protesting times and the oil crisis. Loved this post.

Stefan Jansson said...

Nice to see.

Kay said...

I despair of Americans ever coexisting easily with bicycles.

Mriekje said...

I'm so glad around here they do know what bike paths are for. There's actually quite a lot of them. That doesn't mean cars will respect you any more BTW. I just always assume they are all going to do stupid things. It's the safest way (though somewhat paranoid).