Surge in cycle commuting in USA

By BikeRadar | Tuesday, August 18, 2009 4.57pm

Trek president John Burke says bicycle commuting and recreational cycling have surged in the United States in recent years, and he has the numbers to prove it.

Cities such as Portland, Oregon and San Francisco, California are reporting enormous increases in commuter traffic. Federal spending on bicycle infrastructure (bike lanes, paths, signage, etc.) will top US$1.4 billion in 2009 – up from a few hundred million just five years ago, official Bicycle Friendly Community municipal applications to the League of American Bicyclists have more than doubled in two years, and there are now 5,200 schools enrolled in the Safe Routes to School programme.

Burke, commenting during a keynote address in Madison, Wisconsin in front of several hundred Trek dealers, also said that grassroots initiatives are quickly gaining steam in various corners of the US, and his own company's $1 million-plus in donations to the League and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) are having an impact:  IMBA has built or designed over 800km (500 miles) of trails in 2009 alone.

Trek president john burke addresses the crowd at the recent trek world dealer summit in madison, wisconsin.: trek president john burke addresses the crowd at the recent trek world dealer summit in madison, wisconsin.

Trek president John Burke speaks at the Trek Bike World event in Madison, Wisconsin

"Our goal has always been to help create more places to ride," Trek's director of product development and marketing, Joe Vadeboncoeur, told BikeRadar. "The real reason that more people ride bikes in Europe than in the USA is because there are more safe places to ride."  

Vadeboncoeur understands the pull of having a figure like Lance Armstrong involved with Trek since 1998, but the challenge lies in convincing the non-racing public that riding to work and school is a valid mode of transportation that doesn't require a racing license.

"We can't stand around and wait for a president or a governor or a mayor to do it without us getting involved," he said. "We all have an obligation as cyclists and as industry professionals to get involved.

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"The League's Bicycle Friendly Communities effort is all about helping cities understand what it takes to be bicycle friendly. It's a great organisation and we think that is the best way to get more people on bikes.

"IMBA is all about creating more places for people to ride their mountain bikes. That is why Trek is the largest supporter of IMBA."  

Much of the work on Capitol Hill has been spearheaded by Minnesota congressman and staunch cycling advocate Jim Oberstar. Oberstar was elected chairman of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in January 2007 and has been hell-bent on improving cycling's status and legitimacy – and it seems to be working.

"If our towns and communities were connected with more paths and bike lanes, more people would ride; it's very simple," Vadeboncoeur said.

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