We hear on today’s LeftAhead all about biking, foot-pushing-pedal variety. Guests Ken Fields and Cara Seiderman, the Czar and Czarina of biking in Cambridge, come on for some real expert discussion on promoting bikes in Massachusetts, especially inside Greater Boston. Ken leads the citizen-driven Cambridge biking committee, while Cara leads policy from the governmental side. The community-government partnership on biking in Cambridge easily points to why the city is one of the most successful in Massachusetts in terms of getting people to bike.
Biking being an extremely important and viable commuter alternative, the five of us (a LeftAhead Record) spent time on talking about why biking is important and how to get more people to do it. Biking’s not just for the bike nuts, all decked out in spandex (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the people who just are sick of traffic and high gas prices and now find themselves biking a few days a week. With record gas prices and public transportation use, biking is finally gaining steam throughout this country.
According to Ken and Cara, the most important transformations to get biking viable in every city in this state is often times some of the easiest. For example, it’s as easy as a new paint job – some lines on the street indicating a bike lane is a good way to help drivers watch out for bikers, while promoting bikers to obey common traffic law.
We also discussed why biking is more successful internationally, from France to Montreal. All of these places have spent years promoting bikes for commuters and fostering good bike policy. Cities like Cambridge and even Boston are helping close that gap, but there’s still a long ways to go. In Europe, bikes and public transportation enjoy great synergy – bike racks on the busses allow people to seamlessly go from bike to bus to bike again to get around, making biking as quick as riding a car, without the hassle of finding a parking space or getting stuck in traffic. The MBTA is falling suit, with bike racks on many lines throughout the city, but there’s more work to be done before everyone can and will take advantage of such programs.
However, in the grand scheme of things, biking becoming one of the most common ways of community seems inevitable. Of course, biking is one of the few means of travel that does no harm to the atmosphere – so there’s a real good people can do by pedaling their feet rather than putting their feet to the pedal. And, given that most people only commute within a few miles of home most of the time, it’s often the perfect option, especially when combined with public transportation. In those cases, not only is biking as nearly as quick as driving (and parking), but it’s also a good opportunity to fit that exercise in your busy schedule, doing two things at once. Furthermore, the more people who bike, the better and safer the road is for everyone, says Ken and Cara.
Ken’s committee does a lot of work to promote biking, from billboards to free bike tours around Cambridge. Clearly, his city is clearly cutting edge on biking in America, which is something the city hopes to replicate throughout the area and beyond. People don’t have to do it every day, or in the snow, or when there’s bundles, but riding a bike when possible is a good way to stay fit, do your part for the environment, make the roads safer and save a lot of money all at the same time. The more people who do it, the more politicians will pay attention – meaning better biking policy, which will in turn lead to more bikers, leading to even better policy and so on.