Three Advantages of an American Bicycle Culture

Long Beach, California is getting attention in planning circles due to its commitment to creating bike-friendly districts within the community. Certainly it helps that the mayor, Bob Foster, is a cyclist himself. Under his watch, the city has revamped its image and put in bike trails, new bike racks, protected bike lanes and now bike-friendly shopping districts. The city has reached out to local businesses to demonstrate how attracting more bike traffic can add to their bottom line. Bike racks boost visibility and draw customers to the stores. As someone who cycles to most places, it’s really nice to see bike racks outside of shops instead of having to lock my ride to the nearest tree or fence.

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Cities such as Minneapolis, Portland and Long Beach are demonstrating that bikes belong in our communities. The advantages of a bike-friendly community:

  1. A healthier populace. America is fat. The majority of Americans are big fat fatties, shoving fast food down their gobs as they drive their giant SUVs around town and blame having increasingly sedentary lives on their jobs and other obligations. By getting out and making short-distance trips by bicycle, people will find that they have more energy as they burn calories and get things done.
  2. Less traffic congestion. More bikes on the road mean fewer vehicles, which in turn translates to less traffic congestion for those who have to drive.
  3. Vibrant communities. The easiest way to get to know your local community is to get out of your vehicle. You can’t meet the people on your street if you’re stuck sitting between four walls. On your bicycle or on foot, you can greet your neighbors, which leads to a safer neighborhood.

There’s a fourth, more obvious advantage, which is cleaner air. The fewer the vehicles that are on the road, the less pollution that fills the air, leading to healthier lungs and less incidence of asthma and other lung ailments.

While we’re not quite at the level of creating a bicycle superhighway like Sweden, our cities can get to the point where cycling is encouraged in the community.

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Finally, A Town for Bikers!

I’m a very lucky bike commuter—my little California beach town is full of 3-foot bike lanes on all of the major roads. The only hairy part of my commute is merging with traffic when the bike lane ends before the freeway on-ramp. Most bike commuters aren’t so lucky and have to deal with narrow streets, rude drivers and random idiocy.

 

Artist rendering of Bicycle City

However, a town in South Carolina is looking to change things and become a bike-only community (although cars are allowed to park on the outskirts of town). Bicycle City LLC has selected Gaston, South Carolina as the first car-free community. In addition to encouraging cycling and walking, all homes will be build in compliance with LEED standards and rely on clean energy. The community is located near the Three Rivers Greenway, an existing bike trail, and is close to Columbia, an established bicycle-friendly city. Situated between the mountains and the ocean, this Bicycle City boasts a myriad of amenities to its future residents.

 

Artist rendering of Bicycle City

Green features:

  • Multi-surface trails for walking, hiking and biking (oh my!)
  • Green homes
  • Recreational opportunities around the local lake
  • Access to a local organic market

 

Currently, only trail work is underway, but interested parties can reserve a home site in the community.

A Hobbit House in Wales

 

Throw in a hobbit house, like the sustainable one built in Wales, and consider me sold. Built by Simon Dale, the house was built with the environment in mind, touting straw bales for insulation, reclaimed and locally-sourced materials, natural ventilation, solar panels, gravity-fed water, compost toilet and a rainwater catchment system. Plus it took 1000-1500 man hours and £3,000 (about US$4,650). According to his website, Dale built the home for his family in order to live the life they wanted to lead, without the burdens of a mortgage payment or rent. He also did it to meet the challenges of sustainable land use issues and energy consumption. Armed with tools, motivation and a little help from his friends, he completed the home in four months. Since this project was a success, he’s in the process of building a home within an eco-village in Wales that is part of the Lammas Project.

Rendering of the Hobbit House

 

Rendering of Hobbit House