Bicycling in the coming year

by Elly Blue, via Grist.org,

There’s been a bicycle movement brewing for years, and since 2008 it’s been unstoppable. Things really ramped up in 2010, but it’s looking like next year will be even better. Here’s what I predict we’ll see in 2011.

Bike sharing comes into its own

Bicycle-sharing programs—systems that allow people to check bikes out for less than the price of a cup of coffee—have been a big hit in Europe for years, but were little known in this country until last summer. Now, they’re poised to become one of the most powerful tools for bringing bicycling into the mainstream. They also have the potential to reduce car traffic, lighten the burden on overwhelmed transit systems, and improve public health. Along with these benefits, the programs are setting a precedent for creative public-private funding partnerships.

In 2010, bike sharing came to three U.S. cities: Minneapolis, Denver, and Washington, D.C. All three programs have earned rave reviews.

Meanwhile, New York City has been aggressively laying down a bike network and has issued an RFP for a bike-sharing proposal that is bound to further populate its new cycle tracks and rival its infamous car traffic. Other municipalities, from Miami to San Francisco, are signing contracts and drumming up funding.

Anti-bike backlash

As bicycling increases—and bike infrastructure along with it—we’re bound to see more about bicycling in politics and the news.

If 2010 was the year that mayors of major cities fell in love with bicycling (or just fell while bicycling), then 2011 will be the year their embrace of bicycling is used against them in Tea Party-flavored backlash—exemplified by a Colorado gubernatorial candidate’s wacky warnings that Denver’s bike-sharing program was part of a United Nations plot to control the city. Of course, it isn’t always funny, and Tea Party candidates don’t all hate bicycles. Regardless, your “bicycle” news alert will definitely blossom.

We’re also bound to see a nationwide surge in fabricated “bikes v. cars” rhetoric in the media as editors pen attention-grabbing headlines about any road rage incident that happens to involve someone on a bicycle, or any neighborhood gadfly willing to stand out on a street corner with a sign. If your local media is poised to pounce on bikes, take heart: in Portland this sort of absurd treatment reached an unsustainable crescendo in 2008, after which things calmed down a lot. Your job is to keep speaking reason while the madness runs its course.

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