Improvements in the US
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"In recent years, the US capital has painted bicycle lanes onto busy thoroughfares, shielded bike tracks from traffic behind lines of parked cars, and altered traffic lights to accommodate cyclists.
A new bike sharing programme lets members borrow a cycle from a station near, say, the office, and it ride home - or to the pub - where it can be returned to another sharing station.
The effort has got Washington commuters pedalling, with roughly 2.3% of residents biking to work in 2008, up from 1.16% in 2000, according to the US census. That number has likely grown in the last two years. Nationwide, the figure is about 0.6%.
How is it where you are? any change?
My hubs rides his bike to work, and has bike lanes or bike path most of the way. That's partially because we took bikeability into account when we bought our place! It's also because we live in Cambridge (and he bikes to Boston) where they've made an effort.
I'd assume it's hard to implement bike lanes and such in cities that are very dense, and otherwise windy. Otherwise, Boston/Cambridge would be a great place to bike -- the density means you're never very far from your destination.
It can always be done if there's money and political will, but something has to give somewhere. Usually bike lanes/paths mean fewer traffic lanes or less on-street parking. Segregating bikes from other traffic also means that both cyclists and drivers have to get used to different priority rules and riding conditions. If you're a fit, athletic cyclist (as most politically active cyclists tend to be) segregation often seems like a bad thing - you're stuck in a narrow lane behind grannies and schoolchildren instead of getting an adrenaline rush fighting it out with the cars, and you generally have longer waits at junctions and traffic lights.
Wind isn't really a big problem for short commutes - my route to work (about 5km) is roughly U-shaped, so there's almost always at least one leg that's against the wind. It's irritating, but I've always got enough energy in reserve to cope. It's another matter if you have a really long distance to cover. Gusty wind around high buildings is more of a problem, but as a commuter you soon get to know the spots where you have to be careful.
Well that is one reason why some don't like cycle tracks / lanes. Another is that they are statistically more dangerous when they do interface with the roads at junctions and the like - which they must do.
I don't commute anymore but some of my utility rides are out into the fens and you get the Fen Blow in your face going and coming back most months of the year. It is punishment for not having hills.
It is often a problem with cycle lanes. The few really plesant ones to ride on, don't go where you need to be - much like only driving on Motorways.
It's mostly an attitude thing - a city can be cycle unfriendly despite having a lot of dedicated cycle lanes: if they aren't maintained, and if the other users - pedestrian and motor, aren't aware and concerned about cyclists safety. (not forgetting the cyclists own responsabilities of course).
Then there is the debate between on-road and off-road lanes. Many compriises to be made - but it all starts with everyone expecting cyclists to be around.
I agree with reading_fox - expecting cyclists to be around is the key. Real progress begins when you get to the stage that motorists see a cyclist and think "that could be my child/partner/colleague/neighbour" rather than "incoming hostile creature in Lycra".
What I ended up with is this.
Since 1971, the state of Oregon has been dedicating 1% of highway construction funds to bike and pedestrian improvements. As roads are built or upgraded, this program is gradually increasing the mileage of bike lanes along major transportation routes.
One of the criteria is good cycling, so I've been looking at Portland. Living where drivers don't shout insults as they pass too close sounds appealing. Also considering Colorado.