Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Fifth Bike Boom? Bikes in the News and Bike More Challenge

Two stories today, one a local interview, the other a national story in the NY Times, talk about a nascent surge in bicycling. You might also recall the front-page story the end of April.

On the radio today - via Twitter
This is a periodic occurrence - almost like the cycles of cicadas! We've had the first bike boom of the 1890s, another in the Depression, a third in the 1970s, and a smaller one in the 2000s. Is this going to be our fifth bike boom or just a small boomlet?

Cycles of optimism, in the lull after the First Boom
April 2nd, 1902

And again - but wrong on "rights" it turned out
May 31st, 1919
More importantly, what are we going to do to sustain it so it represents a durable change and is more than a blip? Biking gets framed up as an individual consumerist choice. The interview is with a bike shop, the national story is about supply and purchasing. But what about seeing it not as part of consumer capitalism but as a foundational form of mobility, something more like a utility? Bike shops are important and critical, but we shouldn't resolve the matter to consumerism and fashion only.

Teaser on the front page today
article inside
There are systems that need to change, structural reasons bikes have not sustained popularity.

We are failing badly on walking and biking
(June Our Salem 2019 indicators)
If we are going to institutionalize bike transport as something more than a fringey individual choice of the weirdos, a matter of personal preference, it will be helpful also to have stronger institutional support in corporate culture.

More is possible!
City Staff has not embraced the Bike More Challenge, for example, and it would be nice to see greater City participation.* What can we do to make it less fringey and more mainstream? What needs to happen in order for bicycling to be perceived as an accoutrement to promotion and professional advancement, or at least something that everybody does on occasion and is wholly normal and useful? It can't be just for the poor or young, the eco-greenies, and the weird. It has to be more mainstream and banal, part of the everyday transportation toolbox. It is still too marginalized now.

Lukewarm participation at the City of Salem (Mid-May 2019)
And ending the subsidies for autoism will be a critical piece. Here are some of them:
  • Curtail lawn and driveway zoning
  • End free parking and mandated parking minimums
  • End the gentleman's wink-and-nod for everyday speeding, and enforce speed limits
  • Lower posted speeds in urban environments
  • Design streets for actual posted speeds, not engineer them to forgive and induce speeding
  • Subsidize bikes and e-bikes instead of gas and cars
  • Provide better bike parking, lockers, and showers; readjust commuter benefits away from cars to incent walk, bike, and bus
  • Don't make drivers licenses the gateway to so many things
  • Raise the gas tax
  • Improve the quality of existing bike lanes, upgrade standards on new ones
  • Price road access with tolling and decongestion pricing
And recent notes here:

* It looks like the folks are still logging trips on the old Love to Ride Platform, and there may be dueling platforms and diluted participation this year. Inertia with a still-functional platform is also a barrier to adoption of a new platform. At some point, encouragement contests can also become a pain the in the butt and are no longer effective. Like how many times do you want to register and reregister? There was definitely fatigue visible in the old Bike Commute Challenge participation.  We'll see what happens, I guess. Right-pricing parking is a stronger and more durable inducement than a new encouragement contest.