Photo: John Monoogian IIII spent the day yesterday digging through 18 — count ‘em, 18 — pages of search results in a quest to find Grist’s Overarching Narrative of the Bike in 2011. I laughed. I cried. I almost blew tea on my laptop. Then I biked home on streets that were blissfully bereft of automobiles. Without further ado, I give you the good, the bad, and the pee-your-pants funny from the past year in bicycling. Watch for more bike-related highlights later this week.
Photo: Chris Hill1. The good
2011 may go down as the year Americans rekindled their love affair with the bicycle. And nowhere is the romance as hot and heavy as in New York City, where transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has overseen the addition of over 250 miles of bike lanes and pedestrian walkways since 2007, and has worked to implement a bikeshare program that will launch next summer. Sadik-Khan has some pretty wacky ideas (using haiku to improve street safety, for example) but she’s getting results: The city’s bike commuters have doubled in four years.
New York stole the spotlight, but Minneapolis took home the trophy, dethroning Portland, Ore., last year as the bikingest city in the nation, according to Bicycling magazine. In Minneapolis, cyclists don’t need to share the roads. They have their own.
Other cities are getting off the sag wagon as well. L.A. has set out to create more than 1,600 miles of bike lanes. In Chicago, new transportation commissioner Gabe Klein (fresh in from Washington, D.C., where he helped mastermind the Capital Bikeshare program) is busy laying down 100 miles of protected lanes for cyclists — and making a splash among the Windy City’s fashionistas at the same time.
Not every city is so hip to the two-wheeled revolution, of course. In some places, citizens have had to paint their own lanes. (DIYers beware, this can land you in seriously hot water.) But rest assured that the revolution is coming soon — even if you live in “sneaky cool” Kansas. In Washington, officials have dusted off plans for an interstate highway system for bikes. Dreamy!
Photo: Mayhem Chaos2. The bad
Not all Americans are starry-eyed over bikes. In New York, the new bike lanes have been the subject of all manner of liberal NIMBYism. Congressman Anthony Weiner promised to tear out bike lanes — only to explain later via Twitter that he was just kidding. (Weiner, who was at the time a member of the Congressional bike caucus, resigned after it came to light that he’d sent a photo of, um, his shorts, to a woman via that same Twitter account.)
Meanwhile, in Hull, Wis., the town fathers came up with a creatively stupid solution to bike and pedestrian safety problems: Forbid bikers and pedestrians from using the roads. In Elizabethton, Tenn., Teresa Tryon was threatened with arrest for letting her daughter bike to school on her own. And then there was the dude who crashed his car into a bike store. (OK, it was an accident, but really, is there any place safe from cars?)
This fall, we saw GM’s “Reality Sucks” ad campaign trying to convince young fellas that riding a bike would get them laughed at by the ladies. If nothing else, the ad campaign gave Giant Bicycles the fodder for a sweet slap-back campaign.
And we were heartened to note that in November, when a Chicago columnist tried to pick a fight with cyclists over what he called the “war on cars,” he didn’t get many takers. Of course, if it’s “war on cars” you’re after, Seattle alt weekly The Stranger is happy to oblige.
Photo: forkergirl3. The pee-your-pants funny
OK, we’ve arrived at the frivolous and funny portion of our show. (That other stuff was as close to serious as we get around here.)
In the “creative solutions” department, Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, Lithuania, takes the cake. To drive home the point that bike lanes are not the place to park your car, Zuokos drove a tank over a Mercedes. (I’m jealous: That had to feel good.)
New York biker Casey Neistat could’ve used said tank. When he got a ticket for not riding in the bike lane, he resolved to never, ever stray from the straight and narrow again — even if it meant running into an illegally parked police car. Ouch.
Obstacle courses aside, pedal power still rules for New Yorkers who want to get across town in a hurry. “Amateur daredevil” Mark Malkoff raced a bus through the city on a Big Wheel — and, well, we’re not going to spoil the result. You really just need to watch it.
And last, just for style points, we offer you a bunch of cool kids doing hilarious no-handed bike moves to a rocking good soundtrack. Go ahead, try some of your own, but no trolling us if you can’t pull it off yourself.
Happy New Year from Grist’s bike department. We’ll see you on the streets in 2012.