Google Maps Bike There…for a safer, healthier, happier world. :-)

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Conditions are perfect

March 06, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

I was reading through my feed reader and this post from LA Streetsblog popped up (Streetsblog is/are part of the The Open Planning Project (TOPP) - the same folks who produce those cool videos you’ve probably seen) - they were exploring whether or not LA might be prepared for an oil crisis.

Soon after reading the LA Streetsblog post, I checked in on the petition signatures and noticed a signature from New Zealand.

It was then I was reminded of one of my favorite songs of recent times — ‘Business Time‘ by Flight of the Conchords (who are from New Zealand). One of their key phrases in the song is ‘Conditions are perfect’.

I figure that’s pretty much what we’re witnessing right now, in terms of the worldwide bicycle movement. Conditions actually are perfect - or seem to be nearly so. Whether you’ve battled weight gain, are tired of sitting in traffic, hate paying an arm and a leg to fill your gas tank, or are concerned about climate change - the bicycle is the way to go. And these are just four very specific conditions that many of us think bicycling can help us address (I actually qualify for all four), but they are by no means the only societal problems that can be addressed with a movement towards a more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly existence.

I read a blog post from the Bike Commute Tips Blog about how folks with more money ride more/further (UK Times Online). I’m not sure what the implications of the report are, but I found it very interesting. The article is titled, ‘Ride a bike? You must be rich’:

The richer people become the further they cycle, according to official figures overturning conventional wisdom that the bicycle is largely a poor man’s mode of transport.

The richest fifth of the population cycle on average 2½ times as far in a year as the poorest fifth.

The Department for Transport’s National Travel Survey indicates that the poorest fifth, despite being five times less likely to have access to a car, are very unlikely to consider cycling as a solution to their transport needs.

The flip side of that UK Times Online article might be this article from The Miami New Times. Not to stray too far from what has been at least one of the major themes of this petition - safety - the article is titled ‘Cyclists Court Death Daily’. But the part that had the strongest impact on me was the section about Antonio Morales, which starts towards the bottom of page three:

Morales is one of Miami’s class of invisible bikers — laborers, the elderly, the working poor, immigrants who come from countries where two wheels are still the dominant mode of transportation. The city’s bike activists tend to be affluent and middle-class, easy to peg as any other latte-fueled crusaders. But head across the tracks — anywhere west of Biscayne Boulevard — and it’s obvious the people to whom bikes matter most aren’t Miami’s upper crust at all.

So, again, none of us has to buy into anything more than our desire to have bicycle routes mapped on Google Maps, but if you are concerned about many of today’s societal problems, we’re starting to see a clearer picture emerge of how bicycles, along with bicycles lanes and bicycle maps and other bicycle infrastructure, might be able to help us alleviate and/or even fix some of these problems.

I think that the worldwide enthusiasm we’re seeing for this petition is a reflection not just of the passion that many of us feel for Google’s well-thought out and well-engineered products, but of our genuine belief that things can, should, and will be better. If we could have a tool like this available at our fingertips, and made available to the tens of millions of people who would never have otherwise seriously considered biking as a commuting option, then we can bring about real changes - we can really help bring about a safer, healthier, and happier world.

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