Samstag, 11. Oktober 2008

The Traffic Series - Part 1: Biking

"Americans are fat, lazy and don't care about the environment, so they go everywhere by car!"
I don't know how many times I have heard Europeans say that. Now, I cannot speak for the whole of the USA, but I can challenge that statement when it comes to Seattle!

Rising gas prizes, smog and insufficient parking opportunities are a problem in all major cities of the US and Seattle is no exception here. But Seattlelites (that's the inofficial name for the nice people of Seattle) don't just accept that. They do something about it:

In September, Seattle was honored as a gold-level bicycle friendly community. In fact, 4% of the population commute by bike. That doesn't seem much, but it is ten (!) times the national average. Although Seattle is a very hilly and rainy city, it seems to be appealing for cyclists.

One reason surely is the metro's bike policy: If you should be surprised by a sudden shower or don't want to climb a hill on your bike, you can just jump on a bus and take your bike with you - without an additional fare for the bike. And since the bike is secured in front of the bus, you don't have to deal with ignorant riders blocking your space on the bus.

Seattle also has a large network of recreational and commuting trails for bicyclists, such as the Burke-Gilman trail. These trails are for pedestrians and cyclists only.

Some regular streets have bike lanes. Where bicyclists and cars have to share a road, car drivers are often made aware of this fact by markings on the street.

Bikes are also allowed on the sidewalks, however.

In some areas with high bike traffic, the city provides special parking spots for bikes.

However, with the increasing number of bikers in the city, there seems to be a new parking problem.

Parking your bike can cause more problems. Even though bike theft is very low in Seattle, there is the occasional unfortunate episode of "dude, where is my bike?"

Riding your bike on campus may add onto the list of dangers. The University provides these very nice and totally superflous signs that everybody ignores.

I highly recommend walking your bike on campus, however. Not only for your own safety and for that of pedestrians, but also for the hideously fat and thus incredibly slow squirrels on campus. But then again, you don't need a hunting licence in this country and there are too many squirrels anyway ;-)

Bottom Line: Riding a bike in the USA is dangerous, mostly because obtaining a driver's licence is so much easier here. Seattle is hilly and riding through the pouring rain usually isn't really fun. Seattle has, however, one of the nicest drivers in the country and if the weather is all too nasty, you can still jop on a bus.
And the greatest plus for bike riding in Seattle: You are faster than the bus and sometimes even beat the other traffic!

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