Los Angeles Business Journal

Getting in Gear on Bikes

OP-ED: Arguments against sharing the road with cyclists should no longer be driving the discussion. By RICHARD RISEMBERG Monday, May 9, 2011

• The “bike lanes cost too much” argument

I’ll quote but one figure, from Portland, Ore., famous for “coddling” bicyclists: All of the last 20 years’ worth of bicycle infrastructure put into place in Portland – including 300 miles of bike lanes, paths, and boulevards – cost no more than one mile of four-lane urban freeway, and now accommodates nearly 7 percent of all commuter travel in the city.

• The “reducing driving kills business” argument

This is just another knee-jerk reaction to the unfamiliar. An examination of past implementations shows otherwise: For most businesses, the addition of bike lanes and bicycle parking means better cash flow. Cyclists move slower than cars, can window shop as they ride, and can stop and shop on a whim. You can park 12 bicycles where only one car would fit. Shop owners in Portland clamor for more bike infrastructure, so that they can grab some of cyclists’ loot. There’s a waiting list for bike corrals in front of shops there since merchants have seen the effects of the first efforts.

Los Angeles is a backwards city in regards to support of cycling. Not only are New York, Portland, San Francisco and Minneapolis ahead of us, so are local towns such as Santa Monica and Long Beach.

Instead of endlessly repeating past errors that have led to an inefficient, endlessly congested, tax-draining autos-only road system, let’s give the city a chance to be fiscally and socially responsible and make room for cyclists on some of that asphalt they have been taxed for all these years.

Even if you don’t care about the environment, you can’t argue with lower taxes, less congestion, livelier retail, and a healthier and happier work force – especially in a city finding it hard to compete with its more progressive fellows for business and for businesses.

Richard Risemberg is co-editor of the urban sustainability Webzine the New Colonist, publisher and editor of a bike commuter Webzine named Bicycle Fixation, and owner of a small business that designs and manufactures clothing for bicycle commuters. He lives and works in Los Angeles.

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