The Industry: Bicycling and transportation planning
The Attendees: 435 cycling enthusiasts and planners peddling a two-wheeled solution to pollution, global warming, oil dependency, urban decline, and the obesity crisis
• Fringe Fringe Benefits: Companies that reimburse employees for mass transit, auto, and vanpool commuting expenses get tax breaks. The Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit Act under consideration by the House and Senate would extend that break by making bike maintenance, lights, rain gear, panniers, parking-locker rental, and changing facilities reimbursable.
• Breaking the Habit: Census and other data show half of American workers live within five miles of their offices, more than one-quarter of all U.S. trips are a mile or less, and car travel time has been growing faster than travel distance. So why do less than 1 percent of commuters use bicycles? Studies suggest offering incentives would convert more people from car to bike.
• Brit Grit: Funded largely by government dollars, Great Britain’s National Cycle Network has expanded from 4,269 to 10,000-plus miles in six years, and ridership has increased from 85.5 million cyclists to more than 200 million. One-quarter of them have switched from cars, substantially reducing fossil-fuel consumption, congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions.
• Aside From Unfriendly Projectiles: D.C. is a “bronze-level” bicycle-friendly community, according to American Bicyclist magazine, which bestowed the status for achievements that included finishing the $6 million New York Avenue leg of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, a $500,000 “bicycle master plan,” 125 new bike racks, 10 miles of signed bicycle routes, 11 new miles of bike lanes, and two new bus/bike lanes. And yet, asks Jerry Abramson, mayor of fellow bronze-level Louisville, Ky., “Why are all the bikes in the nation’s capital chained to light poles?”
• Tough Competition: When seeking rails-to-trails and other bikeway funding, panelists said, figure the economic, health, and environmental benefits of cycling into your arguments. Realize you’re competing with highly organized, industry-funded ATV and snowmobile enthusiasts.
• From Extreme to Mainstream: To build support for muscle-powered recreation, presenters at “Achieving Land Preservation and Bicyclist Access” suggested changing the perception of wilderness cyclists from crazy, Mountain Dewñfueled, log-jumping rough riders to serene backpackers on wheels. First steps: Add mature gentlemen, parents, and women to the lobbying team.
• Dedicated to the Cause: After spending eight hours moderating a workshop on the urban-rural, coast-to-coast, border-to-border U.S. National Bike Route Network, Arizona traffic design manager Richard Moeur helped a bicycle-commuting reporter stranded by a flat tire. Moeur, who rides loaner bikes instead of cabbing when at out-of-town conferences, used his travel toolkit and pump to fix a challenging rear tireóin the rain.
• Get Pumping: Nonmotorized travel is frequently underreported. One study found that 72.7 percent of bicycle commuters actually bike to work on an average day, demonstrating a loyalty level many times higher than transit users. In Manhattan, where an estimated 21 percent of travel involves walking and bicycling, the budget included no projects for this population. Asserted urban planning expert Jeff Olson: “If the Dutch and Danes could get to 25 percent nonmotorized travel, we should be able to get to half that.”