Monday, May 18, 2015

Editorial: Advancements continue to make cycling more accessible to everyone

Cycling continues to grow in popularity throughout the US, with many major cities seeing a boom to the number of people who are interested in biking not just for recreation, but to use it as a means of daily transit as well. This growth has been in part spurred by major advancements in cycling technology that have made cycling more accessible to a broader audience. Whether it is bikes that make traveling by bike more convenient or systems designed to help cyclists propel themselves more easily over greater distances or even technology that simply makes it easier to protect your bike, they are all making a difference in getting more people to ride. The growth has also been driven by advancing legislation that has swelled the number of miles of bike lanes and dedicated bike paths to provide safer, less frightening conditions for cyclists and rules that are intended to create buffers between cars and cyclists when they interact on the road. All of this adds up to greatly boosting the number of cyclists on America's roads today.

Image courtesy of Shocke Bikes
Take for example, a quick search of crowdfunding site Kickstarter turns up over a dozen projects around electric bicycles or drive components to convert regular bicycles into electric assisted bicycles. These innovations help to make cycling a more realistic transit option for those people who may not be in the physical shape needed to regularly bike 10-15 miles a day to and from work or who may not have the necessary facilities at their job to allow them to get cleaned up appropriately for the work day after a sweaty ride. Making such options both available and increasingly affordable to a broader audience means that more people can take advantage of cycling as an option in place of a car and the versatility can increase beyond just commuting and extend to even more everyday tasks.

One of the more challenging aspects of bike ownership is protecting the bike itself. Bike theft, especially in places where cycling is popular, become increasingly rampant and owners must take precautions to prevent the theft of not only the bike itself, but also many components such as seats and wheels. One of the more interesting innovations to have come out of this need that sold two problems at once is the Seatylock, a cleverly designed bike saddle that doubles as a hardened lock. This solves the issue of locking the bike as well as preventing the theft of the seat, making it a great way to tackle both of those issues and reduces the encumbrance of carrying around a separate lock. This is the kind of innovative thinking that helps to encourage more people to take advantage of bikes.

The LA River Bikeway, which starts in Long Beach!
As for municipal actions that improve cycling conditions, there is no better evidence of how fast things are changing that the ever changing annual list put out by Bicycling magazine of the top 50 most bike friendly city. While the list used to be dominated by Portland, OR, in recent years, the list of cities vying for the top 10 places has become a heated battle. Big cities like NYC battle it out with Mid-west locales such as Minneapolis-St. Paul to be labeled as among the most bike friendly cities in the country. Through the addition of bike lanes, dedicated bike paths, bike sharing infrastructure, and passing local legislation to provide greater buffers between motorists and cyclists, many cities are courting the growing population of cyclists not just for the green credentials that such an honor can bring, but also because research has shown that cyclists tend to spend more locally, helping to contribute significantly to the local economies. Even in my own adopted home city of Long Beach, which ranks in the top 20, businesses are encouraged to be bike friendly and the availability of bike racks and bike parking is almost insanely plentiful. Of course, even in the best of the bike friendly cities, more can be done to better educate drivers on the rights of cyclists and better train police to not always assume that a cyclist is in the wrong in a collision. Still, the ongoing improvement and contention for the top spot is heartening.

We hope that everyone who took part had a wonderful Bike to Work week last week. As Bike Month continues, we hope to see more and more people on the road cycling!