11 July 2018

What Does He Think Of His "Bicycle Friendly" City?

This is a question I've asked, sometimes rhetorically, on and off this blog:  What, exactly, does it mean to be a bicycle-friendly city.

In the immortal words of one Dr. Tom Hammett of Chattanooga, Tennessee, his city's boast of "Bicycle Friendly" status is "mere bull droppings."  In a letter he wrote to his local newspaper, he writes of the hazards that still exist for cyclists, including those too often imposed, wittingly or unwittingly, by law enforcement officials.  One of them, he says, nearly killed him.

You might disagree with his politics, but he does make a valid point:  that in most cities, even the so-called bicycle-friendly ones, safe facilities for cyclists are "limited and do not serve the entire city," as Dr. Hammett complains.  "In general, our transportation grid is lousy," he points out.  Which brings me to another point: You can't have a bicycle-friendly city unless the whole transportation grid--including that for motor vehicles, not to mention public transportation--is well-designed.  Few cities, at least here in the US, have those things. Simply having a car-free commercial strip downtown doesn't cut it.

Cyclists at the Chickamauga Battlefield, Chattanooga, TN. From Outdoor Chattanooga.

What's really interesting is that Dr. Hammett isn't some hipster who moved into the city because he wanted to walk to his favorite bar and pedal to work.  He is a retired physician who says he "loves" Chattanooga--where, apparently, he spent his professional, if not his entire, life.  And he recognizes that his, and other people's (whether or not they're cyclists) quality of life in that city is intertwined with making it truly "bicycle friendly."

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