Portland is justifiably one of only three platinum level Bicycle Friendly Communities we’ve designated in the United States; they are rightly proud of that designation and thankfully not at all inclined to rest on their laurels. That’s a good thing, because there are some big cities snapping at their heels ready to take away their crown. Minneapolis actually has equally high levels of bike use; New York City has been transformed for cycling in the past two years; Seattle is always looking to outdo their neighbors to the south! But, perhaps the biggest threat comes from San Francisco…because after four years on an enforced hold, the city is about to implement an ambitious bike plan faster than you can imagine.
Last week, an injunction was lifted on the city that had prevented any engineering improvements for cycling on city streets. I wont go into the gory details of the folly of the injunction and the irony of the reasons for it even being granted – its more important now to focus on the tremendous opportunity we all now have to see a big US city really go to town on improving conditions for cyclists. It’s actually going to provide a really interesting case study, just as it has for the past few years when education and encouragement had to take center stage and did a fantastic job of getting more people riding in the city even without any new infrastructure.
San Francisco can now show us how to become a truly bike-friendly community in less than the 40 years it took Copenhagen to be so transformed; in less than the 20 years it took Portland to reach the dizzy heights of platinum and the moniker as America’s best biking city. This is going to be fun to watch. The momentum for cycling in San Francisco is going to shift dramatically; they are going to be able to use more innovative designs and do more experimentation that will help move every U.S. city forward in the future.
Its going to be a great ride and a great thing to see happen. Watch out Portland!
Andy Clarke was appointed to the position of Executive Director in April of 2004 after successfully leading efforts to create, interpret and implement the various transportation programs that are available to improve conditions for bicycling and walking as the League’s State and Local Advocacy Director. Before joining the League in February 2003, Clarke was on contract to provide technical assistance to the highly regarded Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center on site at the Federal Highway Administration. He is on the Board of Directors for America Bikes, and a member of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals.