It CAN be done

Posted by chdot on June 5, 2009

Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphias
It’s only two weeks since City of Edinburgh Council signed the Treaty of Brussels which ‘committed’ it to making cycling account for 15% of journeys by 2020. It’s a fabulously ambitious target, but not impossible

Since then the Council has been backtracking a bit and is talking about it being “aspirational”.

Meanwhile across the Atlantic the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia reports that “bicycling in Philadelphia has doubled over the past three years” (press release). A long report in the local citypaper refers to some of the things that the city has done: –  Over the years it has increased the number and mileage of bike paths and lanes . New Mayor Michael Nutter, “who ran as a bike-friendly candidate, has directed the Planning Commission to develop the city’s first comprehensive bike plan. He also made good on a campaign promise to hire the city’s first-ever bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, a position many other large cities have had for years.”.

Alex Doty, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia says “Bike lanes are the single biggest reason for the doubling of biking in this city. What European cities taught us is that you need to build a network, not just a trail, that is a functional system of transportation.”

citypaper writer Isaiah Thompson adds “Right now, Philadelphia has about 200 miles of bike lanes. That’s not bad, but the so-called “bicycle network” is incomplete and fragmented. There are gaps, lanes to nowhere, mysterious disappearing ghost lanes, the infamous lineless lanes along Columbus Boulevard. Then there are miles of lanes lost through atrophy. Ten years since bike lanes started emerging, many have crumbled and faded to the point of disappearing.”

Sounds just like Edinburgh! (See state of cycle lanes in Marchmont Road.) In spite of which both Philadelphia and Edinburgh have seen significant increases in the number of people cycling (and journeys/distance cycled).

The Treaty of Brussels was signed with the approval of  Transport Convener Phil Wheeler. He has just been replaced by Councillor Gordon Mackenzie who is quoted in the Evening News saying “Edinburgh has to address both congestion and healthy lifestyles. This is why we are so keen to sign up to the ambitious targets of the charter. Getting more people on to their bikes is not just good for the environment – it’s good for their health and well-being, too.”

It remains to be seen whether he and his successors are able to proclaim the success of tripling cycle use over the next eleven and a half years. It will need some change of official attitudes and a re-allocation of resources – not just ‘aspirations’.

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