We Takin' Over, One City at a Time
It started out in Europe many years ago. The Dutch began laying cycle paths in the 1890’s. By the 1920’s Germany was forced to build extensive bike lanes to alleviate traffic jams caused by bikes. As the century wore on, automobiles became more popular but gas prices skyrocketed across much of the continent. With an eye on the high cost of transportation and a practical outlook on life, cycling was a natural solution to the transportation needs of places like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. Cities all over Europe followed suit, and soon hundreds of miles of bike lanes and cycle paths crisscrossed major cities like London and Paris.
In the 1970’s American consumers got their first taste of high gas prices, and the ubiquitous V8-powered automobile began losing market share to the 10-speed bicycle. Deft politicking managed to revive the oil and automobile industries, but for millions of Americans, the seed had been planted. In high-rent cities like New York and San Francisco, many people continued to choose bikes over cars, and some forward-thinking cities recognized the importance of bicycles in their urban planning.
With the dawning of the millennium came an increase in environmental awareness, and a war that brought about a sharp increase in gas prices. Once again Americans began to look for an alternative to high energy costs, and for many the answer came in the form of a 10-speed relic from the 70’s.
Here in 2008, with gasoline eclipsing $4/gallon in the U.S., bicycles are gaining acceptance at an unprecedented rate. American cities are looking to their European counterparts for inspiration, and governments are seeing the value of well-designed bicycle infrastructure. What’s more, politicians are recognizing cyclists as a worthwhile constituency. Bike lanes are sprouting in traditionally conservative cities with hopes that the two-wheeled voters will show their appreciation on Election Day. Even presidential hopeful Barack Obama has promised to support national cycling initiatives.
So look out Ford, GM, Dodge, Toyota, Cadillac… We takin’ over, one city at a time.