Thursday, December 24, 2009
Are the Burbs Better for Bikes?
It's a complicated question whether low density suburban development serves the interests of bike riders better. I'm back in suburbia visiting the folks, and I rode my bike for the first time in a while yesterday.
It really comes down to traffic and street design. The fewer cars on the road, the more slowly they drive, and the more separated I am from them, the less intimidating biking feels to me. We have evidence that sidewalk riding is dangerous, so now that feels intimidating to me too. If suburban streets have less traffic on any given stretch (but more car dependence overall) doesn't that make it politically easier to build a stretch of bike lane? Doesn't relatively low traffic at any given point make it less intimidating to ride? Are suburban streets really like this generally, or am I just generalizing from my own limited experience?
On the minus side, suburban development definitely puts your destinations farther away on average and locks people into the habit of driving for damn-near everything, which reinforces the car culture.
I rode a mile and a half to the bank yesterday because I have space to store a bike at my folks' house, because I can make the trip completely on residential streets on a fairly direct route, and because I had a place to lock my bike near (but not at, shamefully, given the size of the parking lot) my destination.
I'm sure cities are better for pedestrians, transit, and the environment than suburbs, but I'm not completely sure that they're better for bikes. So maybe a bike rider can lend me his/her insight on the subject.