Making Cycling Irresistible
Ever wonder what it would be like to ride your bike without fear of the risk posed by nearby motor vehicles? If such a place existed, would you choose to live there?
I believe it is possible to make your town a bicycling paradise. Far fetched you say…given the existing absence of bike facilities on many streets; or where they do exist their narrow width, or close proximity to high speed, high volume motor vehicle traffic. But it is possible, even in your hometown, provided you live in one of Oregon’s metropolitan areas.
Oregon law, more specifically the Transportation Planning Rule (TPR) requires that local governments in metropolitan places like Medford and Grants Pass, among six others in State develop regional transportation plans that include “safe and convenient” bicycle transportation systems (OAR 660-12-000(1)c. In addition, the TPR explicitly requires cities in Oregon to “avoid principal reliance upon any one mode of transportation,” and to provide for a “significant increase in the share of trips made by alternative modes, including walking, bicycling, ridesharing and transit.” The TPR also anticipates that cities in metropolitan areas “will accomplish reduced reliance” (on the automobile) “by changing land use patterns and transportation systems so that walking, cycling, and use of transit are highly convenient and so that, on balance, people need to and are likely to drive less than they do today.”
The TPR was adopted in 1991 and 27 years later there hasn’t been much progress (except in Portland). But that is about to change. No more will it be sufficient to put bike lanes on arterial and collector streets and call it good. That was how most local governments in Oregon approached providing for people riding bicycles. Gratefully, few people have died using them but that’s largely because few people used them and those who did were “strong and fearless” or were otherwise skilled in “riding in traffic.”
But the future of cycling has turned brighter. Most people who have studied the issue know that separating cyclists from adjacent traffic (such as using a protected bikeway), and controlling speeds and traffic volumes are all critical to creating a low stress cycling environment. Which, in turn, is critical to people actually using a bicycle for transportation.
Many are skeptical that such changes are possible in their city and whether people would choose to cycle if the bike facilities were low stress. Skeptics should read Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.