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Building Bike Friendly Cities of the Future

By George Olden

Photography by Frank Barbella

Our cities are changing. Slowly but surely they’re becoming better places to ride. It may not feel that way every time an impatient driver cuts you off or when a bike lane ends at an awkward intersection... But thirty US cities now have bike-share schemes, with more planned. The popularity of cycling has expanded from places like Portland, San Francisco and Minneapolis to become a part of mainstream culture across the country, as more and more people turn to cycling as the easiest way to get around. Thousands of miles of bike lanes, paths and trails that didn’t exist ten years ago are not only in place and well used, but have become an integral feature of the urban environment.

Next time you’re using one of these lanes, remember that there’s nothing straightforward about this change. Just getting a bike lane installed is a complex and time-consuming process, a combination of bureaucracy, competing interests and financial pressures. Sometimes the opposition can come from unexpected sources—as in downtown LA, where it turned out that the bright green paint on the lanes interfered with the green screen technology used in the movies.

Philadelphia is a good example of somewhere that’s steadily becoming more bike-friendly, has a growing cycling community, and is dealing with challenges that apply to many cities. Aaron Ritz, Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs Planner for the city, explains that one