Year end reviews for cycling have included the best cycling city paths in America. That is the state of cycling in America, where basic paths are heavily featured. Most of the paths are simple, painted, demarcated lines. Something Europeans considers matter of fact installations. See America’s 10 Best New Bike Lanes of 2014 … link here
There are big differences in USA and European cycling. America has been a car dominated culture, automobiles dominate infrastructure, spending, and city design philosophy. Europe has, even in its darkest periods, had some basic respect for the bike and the presence of the rider.
It shows…. Most European cities have some sort of cycling pathway that is present on many roads. Americans often think the cycling zones are definite, limited passages in certain areas of the cities. A bike presence elsewhere can bring no shortage of anger from some drivers – and it only takes one driver every thousand to make life nearly intolerable.
And then helmets. North Americas see helmets as essential. A part of riding to protect the cyclist. Europeans often argue that the change has to be with the car driver being less threatening to cyclists. That riding a bike at 15km per hour should not require helmets to be safe. A but of respect would go a long way.
And then, along with the change in cycling comes a change in the cyclist. North American cycling is often a ritual. The bike alone is often far removed from the vintage rattle cages that are often on European streets. Bike are so relatively new than the bikes are far more recent purchases.
And the North American riders are often decked out in spandex and jerseys, the de rigour cycling costume. It makes cycling an event, a process – and often acts as a rationale why the bike is not used. That the distance would not merit a change in clothing, the distance is not far enough, the effort too little to have reason.
Europeans ride in suits, jeans, dresses, shorts, tights…. they ride in what they wear on the street. The cycling costume is certainly present. But ride in the city and see most cyclists have no spandex. They just ride.
While the USA is celebrating their bike lanes and developing instrastucture, Europeans are a bit further ahead. And I am grateful. But meanwhile, I am looking forward to visiting the USA and riding their lanes, seeing how the bike lanes might have changes the tolerance and acceptance of bikes in the expanse of city transport.