What bicycle-respecting streets, intersections, and neighborhoods look like is largely a mystery to most people, even those who cycle regularly. I’ve offered descriptions twice before. Since then, two wonderful new tools have been completed.
StreetFilms.org, the awesome, New York-based outfit that makes movies about cycling, has posted a 30-minute ode to Portland’s bikability (linked above). It makes Bicycle Respect visible. (Other, shorter StreetFilms works on Portland are collected here, but most of them are incorporated in the main piece. I suggest you start the film, then press pause to let it download before you watch it.)
Among American cities, Portland is considered a cycling powerhouse, but Copenhagen has ten times the Rose City’s cycling rate. How do the Danes do it? That’s what University of Washington planner Alyse Nelson spent much of last year in Copenhagen trying to find out. She assembled her conclusions in an elegantly illustrated report (PDF) — a picture book on how to build a cycling city. The gritty particulars of street designs and diagrams of parking placement will fascinate specialists, but I think the main lesson of Alyse’s booklet is visible simply by looking at the pictures. Copenhagen treats bicycles with as much care and attention as it treats cars. Consequently, cycling in Copenhagen is commonplace: normal, mundane, unremarkable. Sort of like driving in the U.S.
(Check out the cyclist on page 4, pedaling home from a furniture store with an armoire strapped to his bike.)
(Read Alan Durning’s entire blog series on "bicycle neglect.")