My friend Tom Culkin shared a video with me on Facebook today. I wanted to embed that video in this blog, but couldn't figure out how. I hope the link opens for you.
The video demonstrates that if you build it, they will come. At least, if you build good bike infrastructure in Detroit, you get a lot more people riding bikes. Ironically, the "Motor City" built 150 miles of bike lanes and has seen a whopping 400% increase in ridership!
When looking for an embed-able version of the Facebook video that I linked to above, I found an even more exciting link. The e-zine Good reports on the incredible increase in cycling that Detroit is experiencing, but also linked to a TED talk by one of the individuals responsible for this phenomenon, Jason Hall. He started a weekly group cycling event he called "slow roll" and an annual cycling expo, to mirror Detroit's auto expo. (I was able to embed the video of Hall's TED Talk, which I did below.)
The "slow roll" increased from a handful of riders to over 1500 riders every week. The bike expo was also a smashing success. It was true grassroots organizing that got both going. They brought people in via direct, one-on-one contact. These 1500 riders and bike expo enthusiasts became a force that Detroit had to notice. As Hall says, "this all came from community." "We didn't have any money. We had lots of red wine. We had ideas. We had community," who just wanted to make Detroit better.
Listening to this as a cycling advocate on Long Island I have to ask myself what I can learn from it. We, of course, live in a very different world than Detroit. It often appears there are two completely different populations of cyclists using Long Island streets. There are those I see on weekend group rides, with fancy bikes and spandex. Then there are those whom I see around Hempstead, mainly immigrant, usually poorly equipped, often just trying to find the fastest way to get where they need to go and so often taking unfortunate risks. These two groups have something in common: a desire to make it easier and safer to get around without a car; one group by necessity, the other by choice. The question is, how do we get those two groups to work together? Would something like a "slow roll" or a "bike expo" work here?
I don't know the answer to that question, yet.
Another interesting article I read today was on a study published on Thursday by the University of California. The study found that increases in cycling transportation could not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions in cities as much as 10% by 2050, but could also decrease infrastructure maintenance costs in cities by as much as $25 trillion.
Although to those of us who have been advocating for cycling friendliness, this is not at all surprising, according to the article this is the first study that actually quantifies potential CO2 and cost savings.
Imagine. If we invest in infrastructure to make it easier to bike, walk and use public transit, not only might we increase the quality of life, increase the general health of the population and decrease our negative impact on the environment, we might actually end up saving ourselves a huge pile of money, too.
Isn't it time we do what Detroit did?