Sunday, November 4, 2007

Biking as Business

An article in today's New York Times, along with an accompanying video story, discuss efforts made by the city of Portland, OR, in supporting both bike culture and local businesses. Notable as a small example of how a combination of individuals embracing a change in behavior (from cars to bicycles), combined with civic support can help move a community towards more sustainable ways of living. The scale of change and overall consequence may not yet be huge, but building a city that supports bicycle culture is one of those changes that manages to neatly entwine a positive environmental impact, a clear improvement in quality of life in embracing a change in behavior, and a very tangible example to those people who are further back on the adoption curve that embracing sustainable behavior can be both the right thing to do and the pleasurable thing to do.

A couple of side comments that struck me while watching the video:

- It is interesting that while some American cities are slowly embracing bike culture (Portland, San Francisco), urban centers in developing countries that were built around bicycle and pedestrian traffic are shifting away from those modes of transportation (due largely to increased income of the middle class and status-driven changes in behavior).
- Is it a necessary condition of cities moving towards sustainability in the U.S. that they be populated by goofy white people? An un-serious phrasing of a serious question: how does the culture of sustainability become appealing to minorities, people in the inner cities, people with more conservative/traditional visions of success and status, new immigrants?
- Can anyone recommend me a good model of bike to buy, for casual city use? I'm looking for low maintenance, sturdy, relatively light-weight, and built right for my somewhat shorter (5'6") frame.

Photos from a Flickr search for 'bicycle.' Actually, quite worth a look-see.

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