between the two cities. Jane likes riding in Philadelphia because of the dedicated bike lanes, even though “there is a ton of traffic and no real regard for bikers. In Providence there are no lanes, but the drivers are a bit more aware.” And in both cities they want better urban connections rather than more recreational routes like the Schuylkill Trail, which Jonathan likens to an “expressway” for bikes—“a lot faster, but a bit out of the way” for everyday use.
And looking further into the future? For most cities it will probably be a case of working smarter, of using limited and in some cases diminishing funding in more effective ways. There will be more bike-share schemes, bike boulevards, and hopefully better education of drivers. There are calls for velodromes, and even a few fantastic suggestions like SkyCycle, the elevated bike routes across London recently proposed by the design agency Exterior Architecture—the kind of ideas that can inspire people and prompt debate, regardless of whether they ever become reality.
After numerous ThinkBike workshops, Tom Godefrooij still has a powerful vision of what might be achieved. “My dream is for cities where people, young and old, men and women, rich and poor, can safely and conveniently move around and can fully participate in social and economic life, regardless of whether they have access to cars or not. Almost by definition this would turn out to be a cycling city.”
Of course, there’s still much to be done. Many urban areas are still blighted by decades of poor planning and design. There are still highways in the wrong places and not enough secure locations to lock your bike. Driver behavior is not going to change overnight. And rather than a war on cars or utopian dreaming of what Edmund Bacon (the controversial Philadelphia planner) called the Post-Petroleum City, we need to focus on positive efforts that make cycling a simpler, easier choice for more people.
But right now, it’s important that we recognise and celebrate the progress, the tipping point that has passed—the fact that urban cycling is no longer the preserve of a brave minority, and that increasing numbers of people are choosing to get around this way. As more and more of us take to our bikes, the cities we live in are being forced to respond and adapt, and by doing so they become better, more liveable places.