By S.E. Slack
There’s never been a better time to ride your bike.
Bicycle commuting grew 47 percent between 2000 and 2011 across the United States and, in cities that are making investments in bicycle infrastructure and education, bicycle commuting has grown 80 percent over the same period.
The trend is leading a growing number of multi-family developers to build bike-friendly housing with secure storage spaces for bicycles and even putting repair shops in the buildings, according to a recent ranking by Walk Score of the most bikeable cities with 500,000 or more residents.
Ohio cities Cleveland and Cincinnati missed the top 10 primarily due to a lack of bike lanes. Top-scoring cities like Portland, Ore., and San Francisco, Calif., have an abundance of bike lanes and large numbers of biking destinations, despite steep terrain and less than stellar weather. Although New York scored ninth, the nation’s second largest city, Los Angeles, failed to make the top 10.
While many people cite the gas price crunch as a reason to hop on a bike, some say they just love riding their bike to work.
“It’s a natural exercise,” cyclist Caroline Lauzon said, “and I feel more connected to the community. I put an old-fashioned basket on the front to hold my jacket and purse and love getting an even, rosy glow to my arms and face in the warm sun.”
Plus, she adds, she doesn’t miss the traffic snarls she used to sit in. Now, she just uses pedestrian shortcuts and crosswalks to avoid them.
Ohio has about 5,000 bike commuters. Columbus, according to the League of American Bicyclists, has the most in the state while Akron has the least. Across America, there are 57 million bicyclists. Some cities are actively carving out niches as bicycle-friendly communities improving conditions for bicycling.
"I see the dramatic increase in ridership on my own daily bike commute," said League President Andy Clarke. "And it's definitely more pronounced in those communities – like Arlington County and the District of Columbia – that are proactively improving conditions for bicycling and following the Bicycle Friendly Community blueprint.”