Monday, March 24, 2008

Bicycles In Every City

When I was a graduate student, I biked every day from Route 128 to MIT and back. Many would have thought that this would have been not only an arduous chore (sometimes it was!), but also that a graduate student in physics would not have the time to do this kind of thing. Setting aside the issue of my questionable decision to live as a dorm parent in a private school at the time, a time analysis revealed that I was actually saving time. A 45-minute trek by bicycle competed with a 40-minute trek by car and foot from a remote parking lot at MIT to the main building. I used a good rucksack to carry my things. Add into the equation that I took my exercise in the process, and I was way ahead.

Now it appears that there is increasing awareness of the value of bicycling. Here is an article about it from the Boston Globe (http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/03/23/world_class_bike_cities_why_not_boston_1206254626?mode=PF). Part of what will be required to make bicycling really feasible is a rapid transit system that allows cyclists to bring their bicycles with them, or that supports a kind of share-a-bike system. Another alternative is shared cars that will accomodate bicycles, or alternatively, bicycles that fold up so they can readily fit in cars, buses and trains. Portland OR has had a good share-a-bike system for decades. Maybe soon lots of people will be able to get back to biking.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always thought it would be wonderful to be able to use a bike and not worry about it being stolen. When I was a child, we would bike everywhere and ust lean our bikes up against the nearest vertical construction - telephone pole, wall, fence, or use a bike stand. Now, if I bike anywhere, I need a lock and somthing to lock the bike to. Do you think that if there were indeed a share-a-bike program, that the bikes would not be stolen? Could they be so obviously identified and so undesirable that they would remain available? It would be splendid.

JCF said...

The last time I was in Portland OR, in the early 1990s, I was riding in a taxi, and saw individual bikes and small racks of bicycles in all kinds of locations, all specially painted . Seems to me they were a loud yellow. All used and refurbished. Certainly people could steal them, even if they were not worth much, but people did not steal them. That is what the cabbie told me.