[caption id="attachment_7603" align="aligncenter" width="628"] Big Wide roads in Abbotsford, BC. Excellent for transporting bikes on bikes! Drivers generally erred on the side of giving you too much space.[/caption]
In a metropolis that fosters a sense of personal pride when you tackle the hills on your way to work(we've definitely got world class riding; see Tour de California), is synonymous with the fixed gear scene, and continues to show new growth in first-time cyclists; our bicycle pathways kind of suck. The Bay Area as a whole, while boasting some real first class climbs and routes, doesn't have the infrastructure that many other cities have already put in place. The highlights of riding bikes in different cities is being able to see what works and what doesn't in each city.
During my trip to and through the North, Vancouver was extremely flat, wide, and much of their public transit allows bicycles on it. Many of their cyclists boast shocks and knobbies, with their incredible downhill scene and mountain biking in Whistler and Banff, to name only a couple. They also have a thriving messenger scene. The rest of BC that I visited was similar to the rest of the Bay. Wide pathways, but drivers don't feel threatened by cyclists, nor do they really care.
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For the small amount that I saw when we passed through Seattle, the bike pathways were well-defined, but the hills looked rougher than the San Francisco 48! I'm talking 10-15% grades on the bike routes! But in truth we never got to ride in Seattle; I'm hoping to visit again to see more of it.
In contrast to our horn-honking, sailor-style swearing drivers in the Bay Area, Portland drivers flat-out refuse to take their own right of way if you are waiting at a stop sign. Some of the bike pathways actually do some funky stuff in the name of keeping cyclists safe and keeping their routes and spaces completely clear of motor vehicles, but it is clearly defined and there are many directions in addition to being able to follow many, many other cyclists. While their North to South routes need a little more defining aside from the main thoroughfare on the water, the East to West routes along Going Avenue and along the freeway/train tracks definitely can take you across the city easily. The on and off ramps on their many bridges are understandable and ingenious. Much of the traffic on the bikeways have been naturally slowed and even discouraged by various speedbumps specific to the speed you will be going; these make a bike commute feel more like a child's roller coaster. Some nice swells but no loop-de-loops or jarring potholes. In a car, going more than 15mph, you are likely to bottom out and scrape.
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That's not to diminish the great strides that the SF and East Bay Bike Coalition have won over the course of the past few years. New and semi-protected pathways popping up on Market, in Golden Gate Park, and Telegraph Avenue. New bike specific lights and greenways for turning across busy streets, in the panhandle and on some major thoroughfares. Even Google has hopped on the wheel and created a much better version of Googlemaps Cycling; Siri now gives you some pretty great directions that land on bikeways and protected lanes. These organizations while being pretty powerful force however, can't do it alone. Join them and do your part. Attend both the SFBC meetings in addition to the SFMTA and city planning meetings; speak for what you need. It takes every person helping out to create new infrastructure that will take us into the cycling age.
[caption id="attachment_7598" align="alignleft" width="645"] On the way to Granville Public Market, along the Fraser River, a warning to all cyclists. See our Previous Blog Post on how to lock your bike, so that you keep all the pieces![/caption]