I ride bicycles for the fun of it and for the activity’s health benefits. I’ve ridden most of my life and really hit it hard a few years ago when my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic and needed to lose weight.
It’s that way for a lot of people in the U.S. – they ride for fun and/or exercise.
But there are plenty of others who use their bikes for transportation. They may ride their bikes to save money, do their bit to reduce air pollution or because it’s the only way they have to get around. They may use a bike because that’s what they can afford, because their driver’s license was revoked or suspended or any of a number of other reasons.
Various levels of government all over the country are recognizing the uptick in bicycle use and, in many cases, are responding to the development by trying to make streets, roads and highways safer places for cyclists to ride along with other vehicles.
Minneapolis is a good example. It has been recognized as one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country. That’s easy to believe, having been on some organized rides in that part of the state. I rode in the inaugural Tour of Minneapolis that began and ended at the Walker Art Museum. For the last few miles, riders in the tour shared a paved path with other cyclist, walkers, in-line skaters and skateboarders. It was away from any streets and had signs indicating where each exit went. There are also bicycle lanes on many streets in the city.
No wonder many residents commute by bike year round.
I’ve read about even more extensive systems for cyclists in other countries such as Holland, England and Canada.
I didn’t expect many of those same accommodations for cyclists when I went with my wife, Sofia, a couple years ago to visit her homeland, Chile.
But cycling seems to have really caught on there. In the capital, Santiago, I saw all kinds of two wheelers riding in traffic that terrified me – and I was on a bus.
There are also bicycle tours of the city offered by a company called “La Bicicleta Verde,” The Green Bicycle.
Stick figure icons of bicycles mark the bike lanes on Santiago’s streets, just like those I’ve seen in Minneapolis.
But the interest in cycling extends beyond the capital.
I found that out when I visited Puerto Montt, a city hundreds of miles south of Santiago.
There were bike lanes on the city’s streets, just like the capital or Minneapolis.
What really surprised me were the bike lane traffic lights.