A living network that promotes and supports the small businesses and community initiatives that are crucial to the well-being of our neighborhoods.
Whenever I travel I am thrilled when I see bikes on the road. It used to be that only a few European cities like Copenhagen and Zurich were really bike friendly, and in the US, it was basically limited to liberal outposts like Berkeley and San Francisco. How that has all changed.
In 2007, Paris’ socialist mayor kicked off an urban domino with his “Velib” bike rental scheme, and since then things have improved a lot. Now there are similar bike rental schemes across Europe, from Milan and Madrid, to London and Lugano backed by a growing network of bike lanes. Even in the US, cities which just a few years would have been seen as dangerous anti-biking territory like New York and Boston, today are making strides to create bike lanes, adjust signs and lights for bikers, and educate citizens about the health and other benefits of cycling.
Cycling has moved from a “nice to have” recreational add-on, to an integral part of people’s daily lives and commutes. It’s really refreshing.
Pan to Asia: to my great disappointment, biking has been fighting an uphill battle for some time. I see it in China, where cities have been taking the bikes off the roads to clear them for cars (Shanghai); where people have tossed in their two wheelers for electric “silent killer” bikes (which they then ride on sidewalks); and Hong Kong, where traffic wardens engage in really idle work of scolding bikers for chaining their bikes to fences.
Actually in Hong Kong, bikers in HK are really lucky to reach their destinations. We have to have to deal with selfish & aggressive drivers on pot-holed roads with lots of crap strewn around (think push carts, trash baskets, industrial goods). Then there are the pedestrians who wander into the road fully aware that they’re walking against the light and in the face of oncoming traffic. The roads are narrow to begin with, but these are public facilities, so why is it so difficult for people to share, care, and be aware?
Lastly, in Hong Kong, we should really be making a greater effort to encourage biking as a substitute for other vehicular transportation including buses. It’s a great irony that countless members of the chattering classes complain about the air pollution and then leave the office to ride home in their high-emissions Benz or BMW which has been idling at the building’s entrance.
It doesn’t have to be like this! A friend just visited Kyoto which has quite a nice network of bike paths around the city. Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan, but its biking demeanor is quite modern indeed. Check out the picture and see for yourself. Biking is not for the wild, daring, and poor. It is quite a normal part of life, as it should be.