CU Professor’s Study Could Help Normalize Bike Infrastructure

The Denver area is lucky to have a host of academics who prove the need for complete streets with research, and you can add the University of Colorado’s Kevin Krizek to the list. Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner interviewed the environmental studies professor from Boulder about his nascent research project, a three-year study aimed at helping other cities take cues from the Dutch, whose bicycle culture “is the envy of cities across the world.”

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Amsterdam. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

From the interview:

[Bikes] are integrally woven into the lives of most Dutch, and there’s actually more bikes than people in this small country… but really this means that this is a part of the DNA of the individual people, as well as their overall civic culture. Cycling is the default mode of transport for most people, and it’s almost a form of accelerated walking.

Almost 95 percent of the country’s residents have at least one bike, Krizek said, and depending on the town, 33 to 50 percent of all trips taken are by pedal. Compare that to Denver, which wants biking and walking to combine for 15 percent of all trips by 2020.

Of course, it’s difficult to measure any American city against the small, flat, European country that’s made bike friendliness a priority for decades. But Krizek says the comparison isn’t irrelevant.

There’s no doubt that their success has many layers to it. There’s incentives, there’s community design, there’s the overall social element of it. But in addition, the infrastructure is an important characteristic, so you can’t just export one of these elements without trying to adopt the others as well.

Krizek will study how good bike infrastructure contributes to a better bike culture, and analyze how different populations react to different types of bike facilities. In the Netherlands, the term “cyclist” conjures an image of the average Dutch person, because the average Dutch person rides a bike. In America, people see bike riders as “self-righteous and indignant,” Krizek says, though “a new norm is emerging.”

Perhaps that’s because cities are beginning to build streets with bike riders in mind, thus normalizing a way of getting around that many see as marginal. Since cars dominate Denver, many people see driving, and the infrastructure necessary to sustain it, as “normal,” making little room — literally — for people who choose other transportation modes. Maybe Krizek’s research will help change that.