Bike-Sharing Goes Mainstream
The District Department of Transportation deployed more than 1,000 bikes and more than 100 stations in Washington this fall, making it the largest in bike-sharing system in the nation. Washington, meanwhile, wasn't the only city to embrace the idea. Minneapolis and Denver both launched sizable systems in 2010, but it was New York’s announcement that it plans to build a 10,000 bike system that promises to integrate bicycles into the transportation system on a scale not yet seen in an American city.
In a major surprise, one of the most powerful and bike-friendly members of Congress, Chairman of the Transportation Committee James Oberstar, lost his seat to political neophyte Chip Cravaack. Oberstar’s departure, which has dismayed bike advocates, means key federal program such as the Safe Routes to School (which Oberstar established) may be at risk.
LaHood’s Tabletop Speech
Ray LaHood energized cyclists with an impassioned tabletop speech at the National Bike Summit in which he argued that Americans want livable communities and alternatives to cars. He lived up to his rhetoric soon after by rolling out a policy statement that called for the “end of favoring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized.” Cyclists had high praise for the statement, while critics responded by calling the Secretary names.
Breaking $1 Billion
Due to the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects surpassed $1 billion in 2010. TIGER grants, for example, funneled millions of dollars to bike projects. A billion may sound like a large amount, but the League of American Bicyclists helped put the number in context by pointing out that one bridge in the Port of Long Beach cost about the same amount.
Fenty Sent Packing
The first big hiccup for Adrian Fenty, a dedicated triathlete, came over the summer when a local news crew caught Hizzoner running stop signs and training on highways where bicycles are prohibited. Over the course of a campaign that was his for the taking, Fenty’s enthusiasm for bikes became a liability as a whisper campaign convinced many voters that his support for a robust network of bike lanes meant he didn’t care about the economic woes of poor neighborhoods and supported gentrification. The biggest loss: with Fenty went his high-performing DDOT director Gabe Klein.
15 Year Checkup
The Department of Transportation released an update to its National Bicycling and Walking Study in May, and the results show biking is on the rise. Since 1994, bicycle and walking rates are up from 7.9 percent to 11.9 percent, yet fatalities involving the two modes are down. Federal spending on bicycle infrastructure has increased dramatically since 1994, yet pedestrian and biking projects still get just 2 percent of surface transportation funds.
San Francisco Injunction Lifted
An injunction has prevented San Francisco from installing any new bicycle infrastructure for the last four years. Finally, after years of arcane legal wrangling involving an environmental impact report, a judge finally lifted the ban on new projects this August. The gadfly behind the injunction, who argued that bike lanes would lead to more smog production by backing up traffic, has indicated he may appeal.
Shellacking for Dan Maes
Colorado gubernatorial candidate Dan Maes turned heads after he went on a screed about the evils of bikes. His concern: A well-disguised plot by then Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper aimed to make Denver into a “United Nations community.” Come election day, however, it was Maes who took the shellacking.
Distracted Driving Disaster
Skyrocketing smart phone use has made distracted driving as much a threat to public health as drunk driving. The federal government and the media began to express high levels of concern by sponsoring a series of distracted driving summits. Many states even put distracted driving laws on the books, though enforcement of such laws remain feeble. Meanwhile, a steady stream of ghost bikes continue to haunt cyclists.
After he shattered his elbow in a July bicycle accident, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a transit advocate who had said little about bikes during his tenure, suddenly got religion about the importance of bike safety. He even went to the trouble of organizing a bike summit to shine light on the issue for a city that sorely needs more support for cyclists. The only problem: much to the dismay of cyclists who attended, his big idea coming out of the meeting seemed to be that the state of California needs a mandatory helmet law.
An alternative to rides that require blocking traffic or stripping down has emerged in the form of an enthusiastic group of dandies and quaintrelles who have started touring cities on vintage bicycles clad in tweed. Tweed-themed rides, which first became popular in London, cropped up in cities including San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston in 2010. The rides, defying stereotypes of scofflaw cyclists, emphasize courteous and respectful riding techniques.