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Bicycle Adventures

The January 25, 2012 Dallas Morning News had a headline “Dallas lags in commuting study” which took data from a recent study by the Alliance for Biking and Walking. The Alliance said that only 1.8 percent of Dallas residents walked to work and just 0.1 percent rode a bike. Boston was tops in the study with 13.9 percent of commuters walking and 1.5 percent biking. The News’ own research showed that walking to work is more common in Dallas among lower income workers. Of the walk commuters, 42 percent earn less than $15,000 a year and only 8 percent earn more than $65,000.

The reality is that most American cities are built around the automobile and cheap energy. I live three miles from my office in Dallas and ride my bike to work occasionally, but my wife strenuously objects for safety reasons. Dallas drivers are unaccustomed to bicycle traffic, and I have been hit by a car once. The driver on that fond occasion cut across both lanes while making a left hand turn and ran straight into me as I rode, slowly, in the street’s right hand lane. I went over the car’s hood and ended up on the street with cuts, bruises, and a very bent-up bike.

America will sooner or later move away from burning hydrocarbons as the overwhelmingly dominant way of moving people. I did without a car for 25 years when I lived in Manhattan, and I did bike commute to work almost every day. I had 13 of my bicycles stolen while they were parked on sidewalks, and I can testify that it is traumatic to come to your old friend’s parking place and find just a cut lock. I also got sideswiped by a New York bus in the rain at night, and several times I went over cab doors into streets head first when a passenger opened a cab’s rear door into traffic, including me. Thank goodness for safety helmets.

Bottom line, there are legitimate reasons to be wary of bicycle commuting in our cities as they are presently designed. And most cities are so spread out that walking is often not a realistic option. Shortening commutes is one obvious answer by allowing more people to work at home by using sophisticated communications technology. Another is to think of a post-automobile future when we create long-term plans for our cities. We need to get to a post traffic-jam future sooner rather than later, and our bikers and walkers are one kind of pioneer.


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