Is America Turning Into Europe Right Before Our Eyes?

Yes, it’s because of climbing gas prices. And yes, it’s because of environmental concerns. And yes, maybe I’m just noticing these things because gas prices and environmental concerns have primed us to notice such things. (This is called confirmation bias, and it probably afflicts us all.)

But doesn’t it seem as if some U.S. cities are starting to get downright European when it comes to transportation?

To cite just two examples: public bike rentals have come to Washington, D.C.; and two lanes on a stretch of Broadway in New York City are being shut down for pedestrian and bike traffic.

I was in Berlin last year and couldn’t believe how many people get around on bikes, and that is a large, spread-out city. It is a lot easier, of course, with dedicated bike lanes — and if you have somewhere to park your bike.

(Hat tip: Anna Koeppel.)


Julian

I'm from Berlin.
I just walked down the streets and there are dozens of people on bikes. Just nice!

kevin

NM - Helmets? I don't think the human skull was designed to hit concrete or asphalt at 15 mph. One may not go that fast on average, but even the slower cyclists can hit 20 mph on a downhill. That's when you need the helmet.

Nick

About time!

So how long before the US start calling football 'football', instead of calling their game largely involving the use of hands, 'football'!

Jonathan

"Is America turning into Europe right before our eyes?" - well, firstly europe is not defined by cycling - more by 1000 years of architecture, history and city structure that allows cycling to be a practical form of transport. With small cities the roads are too small and there is no parking, combined with small distances to commute. At least here in Germany cycle routes are basically a compulsory part of road construction, even on 4 lane roads and over larger distances. More importantly bikes go free on trams and trains, so for longer journeys or poorly connected public transport cycling is still useful and convenient. Europe is not homogenous (or perfect!) - cycling in the UK is still a sport and not a form of transport in general, like it is in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Luke

European? No-one's really figured out a way to make bike hire work here in cities... you either own one or you don't.

Our buses are terrible too...

NM

Dedicated bike lanes are a bad idea, although they might seem like a good one at first.
Just like bike helmets, which are quite useless unless you're riding fast enough to fall head first -- think Tour de France, not commuting.

S

Perhaps one pleasant side effect is that our women (and men) will have the physique that goes along with a more European lifestyle...

Maid'n

I doubt americans have what it takes to successfully integrate bikes into their lives..

No disrespect, but it is a FACT that Americans value much more the "image" of having a "nice car" than the bennefits of riding bikes -

If the public transportation is So bad and has such a bad reputation in large cities, that people preffer to be stuck in the traffic for hours...I can almost predict the future of attempts to integrate bikes..

Perhaps americans should pay european petrol prices, it might help them wake up about the subject...

Erik

For the DNC, Denver is introducing a free bike rental program with 1000 bikes for free use. After the DNC, the program will remain with 70 bikes as a pilot program.

Ray G

Confirmational bias is a very nice way of saying that one lives in a bubble.

Contrary to media myth, life goes on outside of the blue enclaves in America, and this America is very different than the blue bubble.

Think about it logically; if this small, solipsistic slice of America that so many of you live in or dream of living in was really indicative of America as a whole, how then would we have George Bush in office?

$4 a gallon gasoline might dent SUV sales, but our gas prices are caused by govt corruption and bungling in regards to domestic drilling. European govts are much more proactive in their manipulating the gas prices upward.

US politicians block reasonable means at securing our freedom from foreign energy, but if they took the aggressive, overt actions that their European counterparts took, they'd never get reelected. Outside of the blue bubbles that is.

Z.R.

"...The greenest movement out there might be China's incredible industrial growth with all its soot and consumption. It helps market participants with unique opportunities that drive greenness. How European."

Uh, that's not European.

That's Orwellian.

Brian Kirk

american isn't turning into europe. however, a select few cities/states where urban sprawl hasn't completely taken over & the possibility of riding a bike is still possibly are shaping up to look more like european cities. it's a great thing too!

jafi

re:comment #2
Boulder is less bike friendly than it used to be. I see so many more car-bike near misses, these days. Lots more drivers, and all in big hurry or trying to find a parking space.

And I have to drive so many more places because of all the development in Boulder and Broomfield counties over the last decade. Most of which isn't adequately served by RTD (Regional Transit Denver). Unless you're lucky enough to work in core Boulder it's very hard to avoid driving.

My own car usage over the 20 years I've lived in Boulder has increased, not decreased, much to my disappointment. I'm hoping once Fastracks lightrail reaches Boulder (if ever) it will get better.

Every time I go back to Europe I sigh with envy over the trains, subways, and bus systems.

Chris S.

On my daily commute (Raleigh, NC) I think I am seeing more motorcycles and scooters on the road, so confirmation bias may be present here. But as an longtime occasional bicycle commuter (hence a reduced liklihood of confirmation bias), I am noticing a significant increase in the number of bike commuters this season.

Also, a friend of mine who has owned a local bike shop for 30+ years says that his sales of commuter and street bikes are through the roof.

For the record, Raleigh is much closer to bike-hostile than bike-friendly.

Sudha M

Omg!! Mitt Romney was right. We are turning into the France of this century.

chappy

I think this is confirmation bias at work. From when I last checked the numbers I think DC has the highest percentage of bike commuters of any city. As a sometimes bike commuter I think this is a great idea, but I suspect it will increase ridership among tourists rather than commuters. The price of this program seems to be competitively priced with a daily bike rental, so I'm guessing that tourists are the target market. If you're a daily commuter why wouldn't you just buy your own cheap bike? The bus and Metro system is generally tolerant of bikes, so it seems like a better deal to just buy your own cheap bike. Then again, I don't have a fairly large apartment so maybe this program will appeal to light use, recreational cyclists with tiny apartments.

Liz

The metro areas of the US might become European, but the US still has way more open space than Europe ever will again. The rural areas will have to find a different solution.

Brian Peter

Just to confirm this "confirmational bias" - a friend who works at a bike store in the San Francisco Bay Area tells me that bike sales have been through the roof the past few months. It would be interesting to get national statistics on bike sales.

Another interesting data point - when I reserved an economy car recently for a vacation in Hawaii - the company gave me a full size Jeep Cherokee instead (which should have cost about 3 times the price per day I was paying). I've heard that the car rental companies can't give away the larger vehicles now.

Brian

Small cities just don't have the infrastructure to use bicycles as a primary method of transportation – I don't even know if it's possible to get to a large portion of my hometown without taking a highway. I'm glad I moved to Chicago.

will

remember that cycling is great exercise and really fun.

Saving money and using less fuel is a nice side benefit.