I'm a big believer in the power of vehicular cycling, and really quite seriously un-fond of the 'special facilities for bikes' model. Not to say that I mind the occasional recreational multi-use path — in fact, I love our riverfront MUP. I'm simply opposed to the idea of segregated facilities as the only option allowed to cyclists, and concerned that the proliferation of 'bike infrastructure' will only lead to a proliferation of the idea that roads belong to engine-powered vehicles only.
However, an article I'm reading at this very moment points out that in countries where special facilities for bikes are the norm, more people across more age brackets ride.
Now, I know Slate.com isn't the end-all and be-all of impartial, accurate journalism, and I do think that this trend has as much to do with culture (e.g., the kind of culture that is more likely to beget cyclists is also the kind of culture more likely to embrace the idea of building usable, real-world transit networks just for people on bikes) — but it did make me stop and wonder.
Have I become one of those hard-headed cyclofascists? Am I failing to see the forest for the trees?
There is nothing I want more than to see way, way, way more people on human-powered wheels. It doesn't have to be everyone, and we don't have to do away with cars. I just sincerely think a lot more people could enjoy life more — not to mention be healthier and create healthier communities — if they rode bikes.
While I think it's totally unrealistic to imagine that a country where cities are as large and sprawling as ours often are and the citizens as averse to physical efforts as, unfortunately, ours often are would actually build a really effective bike infrastructure network, I do have to wonder. Would more people ride, if they really felt like they could get from Point A to Point B on their bikes without having to fret about cars?
Is that really the reason there are so few dedicated non-recreational cyclists in this country?
Or is it just another excuse?
I'm honestly not sure right now, but I do think maybe I've been a little stiff-necked about things.
Edit: Oh, one more thing. While we're at it — why is it that all these researches speaking in favor of the effectiveness of segregated facilities are mentioned, their status as cyclists or non-cyclists never is?
My guess would be that it's because they are non-cyclists, because a dedicated cyclist is still enough of an anomaly in the States that it gets mentioned even when it's totally irrelevant.
Further Edit: I am also curious about this question in an introspective way. I mean: how much of my sense that cycling is easier than other people make it out to be is fueled by the reality that I am male (which may or may not be relevant — I suspect that, culturally speaking at least, males in the US are still more likely than females to feel that it's fine to pursue activities that are perceived as risky), a bit (ha!) 'hyperactive,' a bit of an adrenaline junkie, and the kind of person who automatically enjoys almost any activity that involves movement (for the record, I also enjoy dancing, including ballet)? I'm not someone who naturally thinks about stuff like that, but here I am.