That headline from the Freakonomics blog caught my eye this morning. While Americans are slowly changing their evil, car–loving ways (mostly because of skyrocketing gas prices), we certainly have a long way to go before we get close to European transportation standards.
To support the claim, the post mentions bike sharing in Washington DC among other reasons. To that I add the proliferation of European–style bike shops that seem to be popping up all over. In the past year, Seattle has welcomed Dutch Bike Co. Seattle and Portland has embraced Clever Cycles. Both shops are selling everything they can import and by all indications seem to be doing quite well.
The attention transportation issues are attracting in the national media is noticeable and refreshing. Here’s a sampling of headlines I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that seem to suggest a shift in transportation planning in the US:
- San Francisco is planning two Ciclovia inspired street closures in September: Car-free parties planned for Embarcadero
- The US House and Senate voted to give Amtrak money to improve service: Give Amtrak a Fighting Chance
- In the fall, California will vote on the creation of a high speed rail line connecting Southern and Northern California: A high-speed future for California
- As fuel costs rise, cheap housing in the outer suburbs isn’t looking so good these days: Fuel Prices Shift Math for Life in Far Suburbs
Trains? Bicycles? Americans leaving cheap housing in the suburbs for life in the city? Who would have thought—even five years ago—that alternative transportation would be in the news?
From where I sit (and pedal) it does seem that Americans are embracing the bicycle as a valid form of transportation (though if you’ve already read the Freakonomics article, you can probably tell I’m afflicted with confirmation bias)
In our little corner of Seattle, I’ve noticed more people riding to work and using their bikes for errands. Just last week I ran into a few different friends who were going to work or taking their kids to activities on their bikes. That’s definitely a first.
For most of the past year I rarely saw anyone I knew on a bike. But lately I can no longer assume I’ll always have a place to park my bike at the grocery store or the library. Sometimes, gasp, the racks are full. It gives me hope that biking is catching on when I see full bike racks.
Maybe if these trends continue we’ll be on our way towards a more European or Asian transportation system in the US. The progress is encouraging, but we certainly won’t be catching up any time soon.
What do you think? Have you noticed transportation changes where you live?