What Comes First; the Infrastructure or the Bike?

There’s been a lot of debate about what it takes to get more people riding bikes; the infrastructure to make people feel safe enough to ride, or more cyclists on the road to encourage others to ride (what some might call a bicycle culture). There’s also the underlying idea that more riders will confirm to government officials that money needs to be spent on infrastructure. It’s most definitely a paradoxical argument.

When I think back to what made me want to start bicycling in ’08, I remember seeing more people bicycling in my area. Mind you, it wasn’t a plethora of cyclists; it was a few here and there, and it made me reminisce back to what it felt like to ride a bike as a child. The joy of gliding over the streets and sidewalks with the wind in your hair is a simple pleasure most people can relate to. There wasn’t an infrastructure available to me, just a few scattered bike lanes here and there. Yet, even without a strong infrastructure, the idea stuck with me – ride a bike.

I bought a comfortable Raleigh Venture bike and the rest is history. The more I ride, the more I’d like a strong infrastructure to support my errands and keep me safe. Is that too much to ask? I often ponder this question.

Then I came across this video about how the Dutch infrastructure came to be from Crankster:

The gist of the video is that a few events coincided to make bicycling more popular in the mid-70′s and encouraged the city to support bicycling:

  1. Cars took over the city in the late ’60′s and pedestrians and cyclists became marginalized. Automobile/pedestrian collisions and fatalities climbed, especially for children.
  2. The oil crisis of the ’70′s affected the economy and the city implemented “Car Fee Sunday’s” to save energy.
  3. The people wanted their city back and held protests for a pedestrian/cyclist friendly community and painted bike lanes where there weren’t any.

A couple of these events have repeated themselves (like #1 and #2 – hey let’s add the epidemic of obesity to this, shall we?), and some cities are listening and making changes while others are dragging their feet and stalling. So what can one mere cyclist do? Ride! And maybe paint bike lanes around your city. ;)

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