Davis, California: Best Bicycling Town in North America


For many New Yorkers it is difficult even to imagine a bike-friendly New York City. On a personal level, it hardly ever even ocurred to me that the bicycle could be an ideal form of urban transportation until I took a trip to Germany and saw it and experienced it for myself. I returned to New York City with a very different perspective on how our streets are designed and managed. In lieu of sending tens of thousands of New Yorkers to Northern Europe, Streetsblog will show images of bikeable cities as much as possible. Certainly every city is different and New York is extraordinarily unique in North America. But the more you see and experience the benefits of a bikeable city, the more I think you begin to ask yourself, "Why not here?"

Bicycling Magazine calls Davis, California the best bike town in North America:

This small city of 65,000 people has over 100 miles of bike lanes and bike paths (indeed, some claim that Davis was the first city in North America to create separate bike lanes). Bicycle infrastructure is everywhere – from bike shops to bike maps to artistic bike racks on the sidewalks. Most people here own bikes, and 17% of Davis residents commute to work on them. Davis even has a local Critical Mass group, though as my traveling companion said, CM seems a bit redundant here, as at least in the residential areas it’s hard to find any car traffic from which you could reclaim the streets in the first place.

  • Following the links leads to an article that I quote below and illustrates 2 points:

    -Davis put in bike infrastructure in response to lots of people biking; just like other cities put in auto infrastructure in response to lots of people driving — this is counter to the more socially determinitive arguments many make about have pro-bike policies and they will ride (of course more rode after it was built.)

    -Davis put in bike infrastructure subsequent to POLITICAL events — the electorate voted in officials whose stance was pro-bike. Our cities are outgrowths of our politics and from the ballot — for better or worse. Need then is to organize & elect, not advocate.

    Here is the quote:

    How Davis Responded to the Needs of Bicyclists

    “By the mid 1960’s the dramatic volume of bicycles using the City streets near the University made it clear that the status quo, (bicycles in ever increasing numbers sharing the public streets designed and marked solely for motor vehicles), was no longer a viable alternative. A plan to adequately provide for cyclists was needed.

    “The primary issue of the April, 1966 City Council election was the provision of bikeways for the commuter on the public streets. The pro-bikeway candidates were elected. A trial system of bikeways was quickly installed and proved immensely popular. Rapid expansion of the system followed.”*

  • In NYC we started building auto infrastructure to encourage automobile use and accomodate projected future users.

    But there is a lot of evidence that these things work both ways. Push and pull. Build infrastructure for cars or bikes, you get more cars or bikes. When more people start driving or biking more, political pressure builds to provide infrastructure. It doesn’t have to be just one way or the other.

    Also, I have no idea how you "organize" and "elect" without advocating too. What are you suggesting there? How do you do that?

  • Yes, push/pull.

    “Advocate” refers to 501c3 type nonprofits who are not allowed to campaign or take sides — they fight their battles in media by pushing entities to do things.

    “Organize/elect” refers to breeding people to run for office on a particular platform, spending resources to elect candidates who support a position (register like minded votes, GOTV), forces electeds into desired policy positions, etc.

    The 501c3 world is bound by rules that do not allow it to be political and campaign based.

    Thus the suggestion is to focus on candidates/elections/electorate rather than the beauracracy or private sector.

    Why not see if Park Slope/BK Hts will elect an Aaron on a congestion pricing, anti-parking, pro-transit platform?!?!?!

  • So, I’ve got one vote?

    I see what you are saying.

    I don’t know about any Aaron’s running for office but I totally agree with you. I think the Livable Streets Movement, or whatever you want to call this group of advocates, should run someone for office on these issues, particularly in the realm of DeBlasio/Yassky where the consciousness is relatively high.

    But I do think it’d be tough to win. I still think NY’ers care much more about affordable housing, schools and crime on the neighborhood level. So, Livable Streets could only be part of the mix. And in Brooklyn, you never know — parking and easy motoring is still important to a whole lot of people.

    Though Rasiej wasn’t all that successful with his wifi campaign, it made me think that someone should run a Livable Streets single-issue campaign for the office of Public Advocate next time around.

    In London they say congestion pricing never would have happened if it had to pass through a legislative body. A lot of this stuff might just require mayoral fiat in the end, like the smoking ban.

  • Denise

    Hey. Who took this photo? And where can I seek permission to use it in a community non-profit organization?

  • J. Mork

    Denise — click through to the worldchanging story — there’s a photo credit there.

  • Denise

    So sorry to ask, but where is the world changing story? I scanned the site and don’t see it

  • J. Mork


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