That poor old line from “Field of Dreams,” eternally misquoted as, “If you build it, they will come,” is holding true for bicycling and its supporting infrastructure.
It’s not just in obvious placees that we’ve been hearing about lately, such as New York City, Long Beach, Santa Monica, and of course Portland and Minneapolis, where cycling booms have followed infrastructure implementations. In less-likely places as diverse as Lincoln, Nebraska, and Northern Indiana—in fact, all over the country, even here in stodgy old Los Angeles—everyday folks start pulling out their bikes for everyday travel as soon as you build something—anything!—that helps them feel welcome on the roads.
And it’s happening here in the homeland of Flying Pigeon LA, mighty Highland Park.
As you may know, the corner in front of Café de Leche was blessed with LA’s first bicycle corral recently, supplementing the numerous sidewalk racks that were there before. The street also received a road diet that made room for bike lanes, thereby establishing the synergy of networks and destinations—bike lanes and routes that take you somewhere, and parking facilities that let you stop at that somewhere once you get to it.
And, yes, it took a while for the community to get used to having bike infrastructure handy, but now it has been building up momentum. Look at the pix I took this afternoon on my way home from a jaunt to South Pasadena:
Yes, racks aplenty, and bikes aplenty in them!
And it will just get better. In Portland, bike corrals are all over town and frequently take up not one but two spaces formerly wasted on car parking. When we were up north in 2010, we typically saw long bike corrals full or three-quarters full, and the adjacent shops, bars, and restaurants brimming with happy people (not to mention happy owners).
(You can read our report on that visit here.)
And it’s happening in LA—slowly, because the city is building out infrastructure slowly, often timidly. You know the drill: one complaint, or even a sniffle or hiccup from a shop manager or testy resident, and an entire bike lane project, bike corral, or even single sidewalk rack gets canceled.
But I think that will change as the word gets around. After all, car-centered infrastructure and development are really expensive, and simply don’t pay back their costs.
And people of all ages, but especially young people, are driving less, and often choosing not to drive at all. They don’t look forward to a life spent staring at the bumper in front of them in traffic jams, circling nervously for a parking space, and getting fat and sick. They’d rather ride.
When cities begin to see the result of their “pilot programs” offering dribs and drabs of bicycle infrastructure, and see how even incomplete networks bring cyclists and their wallets flocking in, attitudes will change. Even here in LA.
Because they are already changing, nearly everywhere else.