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Could the UK learn from USA’s cycling infrastructure?

Tom Dollard reports on the Portland to Portland cycle ride

Take 14 architects and planners of different abilities, age, personalities and throw them together on a cycling adventure across 4,400 miles of the USA, Ireland the UK. This was the challenge of the Portland to Portland cycle ride. If things went wrong, ‘I’m an architect get me out of here!’ could be an appropriate name for the TV programme. However, after 42 days on the road, fortunately this was not the case.

I left the team at Minneapolis as I had to get back to my work at PTEa, but was satisfied with having made it more than half way across the States.

Much has been written about Portland Oregon, as America’s capital of cycling, but Bicycling Magazine named Minneapolis America’s No.1 bike city! Nearly 4 percent of residents bike to work and it is easy to see why.

The bike lanes and bridges, greenways, festivals, bike shops (with free storage, showers and changing facilities for commuters), bike storage on buses and the general attitude to cycling in the city is exceptional. The mid-town greenway, a dedicated dual lane bike path through the city, has been a major generator of residential development and property prices along the route. Seeing the value created by this investment, Minneapolis has committed a further $25 million investment in cycling over the next 3 years.     

This contrasted with the poor conditions of South Dakota. Poorly surfaced roads, flat landscapes, rain and sometimes painful hailstones coupled with a 25mph head wind all day is the most disheartening challenge a cyclist can face.

Then we reached the long straight roads of the Prairies. A small family farm in the Prairies is 8,000 acres. This is indicative of the states as a whole – they are massive in more ways than one. A friend of mine we met in Bozeman, Montana, said that he thought the whole country had been inflated with a bike pump – the cars, roads, buildings, urban grid, food and the people! Even the bike lanes were large, smooth and well maintained – perhaps a by-product of the national desire to provide the best. This ambition coupled with America’s resources, space and willingness to learn from Europe could soon see America topping the world’s list of cycling cities.

  • Tom Dollard is head of sustainability at Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects


Source: Bob West

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