Today the U.S. celebrates Bike to Work Day. The reality is that today is not only about getting more people to bike for environmental or health reasons, but also for the different perspective it gives us to reexamine our city and our relationship with it as urban dwellers. Biking allows us to experience life at a different pace, to escape the daily hustle and bustle, and to be more in tune with nature. As we pedal, we reminisce about our childhood and the freedom we experienced when we first rode a bike.
Today, there will be many riders in the streets, but still there won’t be enough of us. What bike lanes exist are not sufficient, and the ones that do exist are not safe in many parts of the city. Many times there is a lack of bike parking and showers to use once we arrive to work. The combination of these deficiencies and other conditions prevent an increase in bike ridership to work. The graphic shown below, created by Kory Northrop, shows percentage figures of people that bike to work on a daily basis in the U.S., and also shows cities with the highest rates of cycling, which are: 1) Portland, 2) San Francisco, 3) Philadelphia, 4) Seattle, 5) Boston, 6) Minneapolis, 7) Washington, D.C., and 8) Honolulu.
Why don’t we set the bar higher? Copenhagen, the Danish capital, would be our model to copy with 36% of its habitants biking to work and with a goal of increase the amount to 50% by 2015. A New York Times article that describes the origin of Copenhagen’s cycle track network as “the idea of city planners who were looking for ways to increase bicycle use in a place where half of the residents already bike to work or to school every day.”
In the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative we would like to replicate the lesson from Copenhagen and adapt it to Latin American cities. We’ve already started in one of our cities, Mar del Plata, Argentina. But, we must lead by example, so we are showing in the photo below a small sample of our colleagues who come to the IDB office in D.C. each day by bike, out of an enormous group of bikers. All of us who bike to work want a more sustainable city and to practice what we preach.