When I visited Paris long ago it was a traffic clogged mess, with lovely architecture. Parisians have had enough of bad traffic and decided to solve their mobility challenges by adding more ways to get around the city. Thy’ve already returned urban space to pedestrians and started to build more infrastructure for bicycles.
The excellent YouTube channel Not Just Bikes took a good look at what’s happening in Paris, and things are looking good.
The French capital is investing €250 million into significant upgrades to cycling infrastructure and maintenance within the next four years. Thousands of new bicycle stands and an increased number of protected cycleways will be introduced as part of ‘Plan Velo: Act 2’.
As of this year, Paris already has more than 1,000km of safe cycle paths including around 52km of “coronapistes” that were temporarily introduced during the pandemic. It now plans to make these permanent and add another 130km of safe paths to encourage people to cycle in the city.
Riding bikes has gotten more popular over the course of the pandemic due to the fact it’s a safe outdoor activity. Popularity of commuting by bicycle has also increased thanks to initiatives done throughout many cities to increase infrastructure supporting bicycling. All of this has led to demand for bicycles which far exceeds the current global supply. This is a good thing, the more people riding bicycles the better.
The new infrastructure supporting bicycles has actually lead to a massive increase in the amount of people riding bikes daily. You can see the evidence of this and a new interactive report out of Ryerson University that looks at how cycling infrastructure drastically increases the numbers of riders.
Things are pedal to the metal all over the country. Whether it’s Calgary,Â Toronto or Halifax, bike shops are slammed, withÂ a surge that started in March 2020 and has not let up â€” and a backlog that some experts say won’t beÂ cleared up for months or even years.
That’s provided a surge in demand for bikes. Market research firm NPD Group says Canadian numbers aren’t tracked, but in the United States, sales of bicycles increased 75 per cent in 2020 compared with a year earlier. For the first two months of 2021, the increase year over year was 130 per cent.
In North America bike lanes are afterthoughts slapped on infrastructure meant for heavy metal objects that kill people and the planet. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the conversation from supporting large single occupant vehicles to supporting solutions to move large groups of people safely through our cities. In the 20th century car manufacturers spent lots of money to convince people that everyone needs a car and that “smart cities” would be built around the car and not people. Today we need to do the opposite and spend time and money convincing everyone that cities should be for people and not cars – and we can do it!
Cars and trucks get billions in federal, state, and local money. Governments can mindlessly belch out vast sums for highway wideningsâ€”see the $1.6 billion spent on a single-lane addition to the 405 freeway in Los Angeles, even though weâ€™ve known for years that it would not make a dent in travel times. With all this money seemingly available for car infrastructure, some of which is absolutely useless or makes traffic worse, thereâ€™s only a pittance devoted to robust bike networks. Why?
Letâ€™s dare to design something that can actually make a difference and imagine micromobility infrastructure that goes beyond bike lanes and that leapfrogs piecemeal local approaches. Letâ€™s create a blueprint that can have real, lasting impact, to excite the masses, bring together many groups, companies, special interests, and demographics, create real mode shifts, and actually make a real difference in pollution, climate, and car deaths.
Regular readers know that bike lanes are good for people, cities, transportation, and the economy. Yet another article has been written about the greatness of bicycle transportation in case you needed even more evidence of how good bike lanes are. The CBC is running an article that provides a great breakdown of the many ways bicycle infrastructure boosts the economy from how efficient bicycles are to the fact that bike lanes boost home values.
4. Bike lane projects create more jobs than roads alone
Another unique factor some use in favour of bike lanes actually comes out of critiques against them: their cost.
A Canadian report from 2014 noted that the price for installing a bike lane can range from as low as $20,000 per/ km for a painted lane to $1.2 million per/km if a road needs to be widened.
A 2011 U.S. study analyzing 58 projects in 11 different cities found that for every million dollars spent cycling infrastructure projects created 11.4 local jobs compared to 7.8 jobs for road-only projects.
The study says a bike lane “which requires a great deal of planning and design will generate more jobs for a given level of spending,” than a road alone, employing more construction workers and engineers while utilizing less materials.
Nonetheless, bike lane budgets can still produce bad news for local leaders even in bike friendly cities.
Since roughly WWII we’ve been designing roads and streets for only one purpose: the automobile. Before the 20th century roads were designed to move people around efficiently, today roads are incredibly dangerous for people who are outside of metal containers. Australians are starting to do something about this lack of safety on streets already and are looking for was to make how we navigate our roadways even safer.
The next step is to respond in ways that keep returning attention to the facts from best evidence. To repeat, whether youâ€™re a driver, occupant, pedestrian or cyclist, roughly 90% of what causes death on Australiaâ€™s roads is driver behaviour.
For cyclists, the root cause of deadly harm is aggression and inattention. Drivers should be held to account and be pushed to change their behaviour and attitudes.
Simple inexpensive changes in the law have been found to have dramatic effects on driver behaviour. These changes also work with existing infrastructure, technology, road conditions and our cultural expressions of human nature
Another welcome measure is a recent initiative to reduce urban speed limits to 30km/h. This has just been implemented in one of Melbourneâ€™s inner urban areas without too much fuss. According to the research behind it, youâ€™re twice as likely to survive being hit at 30km/h as at 40km/h.