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The Sign of a Successful Bike Plan: Slow Biking
Chris and Melissa Bruntlett share their take on "a seldom-discussed measure of a city’s bike-friendliness: the speed at which its cyclists travel." Their opinion on the subject is stated thusly: "the slower the people on bikes were moving, the more mature the bicycle culture, and the better the conditions for cycling."
The difference is played out in the difference between what people consider "cyclists" and the rest of us. "Cycling" is considered a sport—one that requires lycra at the lowest levels and performance enhancing drugs at the highest levels. The Bruntletts, however, are more concerned with the rest of us, and they noticed four signifiers that exhibit a mature city for biking: the kinds of people biking, the types of bikes they are riding, the kinds of trips people on bikes are taking, and the kinds of bike infrastructure available in the city. The Bruntletts describe how the first of those four points works:
Upon arrival in a new city, a cursory glance at the types of people choosing to cycle there will tell you a great deal about its bike-friendliness. The places with the widest variety of ages and abilities can be considered – without exception – the most successful, with a greater number of women, children, and seniors on bikes a surefire sign you’re doing something right. That diversity brings with it a slower-paced, more relaxed environment, that is far more welcoming to the “interested but concerned” crowd.
On the last point, according to the Bruntletts, certain types of bike infrastructure are built to ensure that people on bikes feel willing and able to slow down and enjoy the ride. The final twist of this argument: that the first three of those points don't become a reality until the last one does.