Bike Culture in Europe and the USA

Biking in North America

The quantity of people that cycle regularly in Canada and america has elevated steadily for the previous twenty years. In line with a research revealed in 2011-which checked out information from nationwide surveys carried out by the U.S. Division of Transportation-the variety of bike journeys taken annually tripled between 1977 and 2009. The paper, which cites the rise of a “biking renaissance,” additionally experiences the quantity of people that bike to work doubled between 2000 and 2009-accounting for 0.6 p.c, or about 766,000 People, of the working inhabitants. This quantity elevated to 865,000 American commuters by 2012 (though, with the growing workforce, this proportion remained at 0.6 p.c).

These numbers characterize nationwide averages however are a lot increased in cities that make investments considerably in biking infrastructure. Portland, typically acknowledged as America’s best biking metropolis, elevated the variety of bike journeys per yr by virtually six-fold between 1990 and 2009, accounting for nearly 6 p.c of general transportation. For work-specific journey, bike-use peaked at 18 p.c of all commutes in 2008.

Usually, biking is extra well-liked in western communities-especially in dense city areas, gentrified neighborhoods and college/school locales. Nevertheless, cities comparable to Chicago, Minneapolis and New York Metropolis have additionally seen large development in biking populations, suggesting climate and local weather should not the one elements influencing bike use.

It is price noting that revenue can have an effect on why folks cycle. Extra prosperous populations usually tend to cycle for leisure, whereas low-income populations usually tend to cycle for utilitarian purposes-i.e. commuting to work or college. In different phrases, biking could also be extra of a enjoyable pastime than a fascinating mode of transportation. The bulk of people that cycle frequently might solely accomplish that as a result of they cannot afford to drive.

Denmark & the Netherlands: Promised lands

Whereas People can take delight of their rising bike tradition, biking has been ubiquitous in European communities for many years. In Denmark, 16 p.c of all journeys are made by bike-and 25 p.c of journeys lower than Three miles. As in North America, city areas see extra biking than rural, and it is estimated that 50 p.c of Copenhagen residents bike to work or college. Bike possession is one other huge indicator; 90 p.c of Denmark’s inhabitants personal a motorcycle whereas solely 56 p.c personal a automotive.

The state of affairs is comparable within the Netherlands. In Amsterdam, which has a inhabitants of 779,808, there are 800,000 bikes and solely 263,000 cars-that’s extra bikes than folks! Ridership can be excessive, with about 63 p.c of Danish folks using their bikes daily-and making up about 48 p.c of all metropolis visitors (in comparison with solely 22 p.c for automobiles).

So why is biking extra frequent throughout the Atlantic? It turns on the market are a few broad distinctions to contemplate.

Bicycle way of thinking

In North America, relying on the place you reside, bike tradition could appear extra like a sub-, and even counter-, culture-popular amongst teams that differentiate themselves from the mainstream by touting “more healthy” or “extra sustainable” life. (Relying in your view of biking, you may even name these folks “wackos” or another by-product.) In Europe, the tradition is way totally different, as biking is extra pervasive-maybe even indistinguishable-from the norm. Greg Hascom wrote a sequence of articles for Grist some time again. He paperwork his expertise within the bike-haven of Copenhagen-where, he notes persons are “as snug on their bikes as we [North Americans] are in our automobiles.”

Denmark and the Netherlands are dwelling to among the most acknowledged bicycle communities within the world-and they don’t seem to be restricted to 20-somethings biking between lessons on campus. Biking is frequent throughout all Dutch demographics-men and ladies, previous and young-who commute frequently by bike all-year spherical. They cycle to work, college, daycare, grocery shops, events-you title it and biking is the way in which to go.

Removed from the tricked-out efficiency bikes you see in lots of American cities, most individuals in Copenhagen journey heavy cruiser bikes with vast fenders, giant baskets on the entrance and/or racks on the again. Bikes are a way to getting from one place to another-and little extra. There may be little room or curiosity for bikes to tackle standing symbols, and plenty of undergo from the neglect and disrepair typical of labor/utility automobiles.

Driving apparel takes an analogous “operate over style” aesthetic. As a substitute of form-fitting, performance-oriented Lycra or Spandex artificial materials, Copenhageners journey of their normal denims, skirts or different enterprise apparel. Decide up any American biking journal, and you will see web page after web page of designer gear and accent gear championed by sponsored athletes. As BBC Journal notes about Amsterdam riders, nonetheless, “The bike is an integral a part of on a regular basis life quite than a specialist’s accent or a logo of a minority life-style, so Dutch folks do not concern themselves with having the very newest mannequin of motorcycle or hi-tech devices.”


In his go to to Denmark, Hanscom additionally notes that as a substitute of getting expansive parking tons for motor automobiles, areas are devoted to stacks of bikes parked within the a whole bunch. Moreover, bike lanes have a transparent presence and are nicely maintained-and “bicycle superhighways” join close by suburbs to most important metropolis facilities. Metropolis funding in infrastructure is one other important indicator for the recognition of motorcycle commuting. In Copenhagen, for instance, the overwhelming majority of cyclists determine biking because the quickest and most handy type of transportation obtainable.

Just a few years again, Roger Geller revealed a report for the Metropolis of Portland that evaluates enthusiasm and help for biking within the metropolis. He recognized a spectrum of cyclists that included the next lessons and their respective proportions among the many native inhabitants:

  • Sturdy and fearless (0.5 p.c): Cyclists on this class determine with biking as a part of their identification. They cycle irrespective of the climate or visitors circumstances and are proud and enthusiastic. They don’t have any qualms about biking alongside motor automobiles.
  • Enthused and assured (7 p.c): This class contains cyclists who bike typically however depend on devoted infrastructure or stick with facet streets. With out metropolis infrastructure, folks on this class wouldn’t journey as typically or in any respect.
  • however involved (60 p.c): This group makes up nearly all of residents, who present an curiosity in biking however are deterred by perceived boundaries comparable to security and entry to handy bike routes.
  • No means no how (33 p.c): Folks on this group are decidedly against using a motorcycle as a type of transportation, and no circumstances will change this.

Whereas the report takes under consideration that some folks will cycle irrespective of the conditions-and others won’t ever cycle attributable to an absence of curiosity, well being or different reasons-it determines perceived threat as the first determiner that can encourage or discourage potential cyclists.

The uptake of biking in main city facilities in North America exhibits it’s supported by bike-friendly infrastructure. Whereas it might sound that bigger city facilities naturally entice extra cyclists, this proves not the case. In lots of cities-including Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Kansas Metropolis and Memphis-less than 0.Three p.c of residents cycle to work (lower than half the nationwide common). What distinguishes different cities with increased biking rates-including Chicago (1.2 p.c), Toronto (1.7 p.c), Washington (2.2 p.c), Montreal (2.four p.c), San Francisco (3.Zero p.c), Vancouver (3.7 p.c), Minneapolis (3.9 p.c) and Portland (5.5 p.c)-is that they characteristic extra city-led funding and help. Profitable initiatives sometimes embody:

  • Bike teaching programs
  • Bike lanes, boulevards and off-street pathways
  • Bike-sharing applications
  • Value-sharing applications
  • Parking infrastructure
  • Transit integration
  • Properly-connected bike networks

Infrastructure or enthusiasm: Which comes first?

Whereas bettering metropolis infrastructure and rising a vibrant, mainstream biking tradition could appear unrelated, the 2 are in actual fact carefully linked. Infrastructure helps biking by decreasing boundaries comparable to inconvenient routes and perceived threats to security. However with out a sturdy ridership, it may be tough for municipalities to justify bike-friendly expenditures. As such, it might be tough to know which ought to come first, the bike surroundings or the bikes-and it might be a special case for various communities.

No matter which is simpler, each have gotten extra prevalent in North America. We talked about above how North America’s main bike communities have invested closely in infrastructure. Schooling and visibility may also have a big impact. Critical Mass biking occasions could be nice means for growing enthusiasm and encouragement-showing demand for municipal help and growing consciousness and security amongst drivers.

There are additionally indicators the subsequent technology of commuters might have their very own commuting ambitions. A current research on the College of Michigan exhibits that fewer younger persons are driving than in earlier years. In 1983, 87 p.c of 19 yr olds had their driver’s license in comparison with 65 p.c in 2008. That mentioned, the demographic with the best enhance in biking are 40-60 yr olds, who between 2001 and 2009 elevated their proportion of the biking inhabitants from 10 p.c to 21 percent-compared to 16-24 and 25-39 yr olds who noticed modest will increase to 11 p.c and 23 p.c respectively. Youths youthful than 16 had been the one group to lose their proportional share of biking populations.

Supporting developments in tradition and infrastructure

As North American city environments evolve, we’re seeing a shift towards purposeful web site design that integrates a number of objectives into metropolis landscapes. The areas we assemble make important statements by way of how we wish to stay and the life we help. As our bike enthusiasm will increase, so does the vary of design for merchandise and infrastructure. New developments do not essentially require main changes, however quite, ought to reinforce seamless integration.

To help the event of built-in web site designs, Reliance Foundry’s new R-7972 Bike Bollard contains a slim, modern design modelled after European aesthetics and built-in bike mentalities. It presents a non-intrusive vertical column, excellent for sensible bike storage in dense city areas, and a contemporary, engaging design to encourage use by guests and local people members alike.

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