I knew it was only a matter of time before I got to talking about bicycles – and as it happens, it’s my first post after a long hiatus (was busy moving, sorry!). Can’t we all just get along? That’s the question everyone should be asking but no one does. I’m talking about bicycles and public transportation, because we’re all in this whole sustainable transportation thing together.
Bicycles solve one of the fundamental flaws inherent in any transit system, which is that transit is not great for short trips. While a frequent and comprehensive public transport network makes it easy and convenient to travel long distances, it is simply not possible to design a system serving every possible trip need.
Yet half of all trips are less than three miles. Even for longer trips, we have the “last mile” problem: you can go all the way across a city or region but not get close enough to walk, and thus you can’t use transit.
Enter the bicycle! Bicycles are perfect for those trips too far to walk yet too close to be effectively served by transit. It’s hard to beat a 20-minute bike ride in any transit mode, especially when you consider walking time to the transit stop/station.
Transit is expensive for short trips. Paying only $2 to go across town may be a bargain, but not if you only go a mile, and certainly not compared to a free option. (Which is, of course, why so many people drive so much, because we provide and maintain streets and parking spaces, among other subsidies. More on that in the near future...)
Another positive effect of bicycling in large, dense cities is that fewer people are taking up space on the subways and buses at the most crowded times. In a time of growing ridership and inability to add buses and trains, any extra space is a good thing.
Contrary to popular myth, bicycles and buses can coexist peacefully. Transit operators are highly trained professionals, and bicycles aren’t surrounded by tons of steel. In other words, neither one is likely to hurt anyone, and they should have a healthy respect for each other.