National Geographic : 2009 Jan
PHOTOS: RICH FRISHMAN. SOURCE: LEAGUE OF AMERICAN BICYCLISTS The bike box, a European innovation, gives Portland, Oregon, bikers a jump on traffic. A Bicycle Bump Pedaling to work one morning in Atlanta, Jesi Hirsch was rear-ended by a car. The 53-year-old nurse belly flopped and got a bad case of road rash. A passerby said, "You're lucky you could get up at all." After that, Hirsch gave up biking. In May she moved to Portland, Oregon---and got back in the saddle. Portland has 171 miles of bike lanes, ten freshly painted green boxes that put cyclists safely ahead of vehicles, even some signals just for bikes. It's "the best of the bigger cities for cycling," says Andy Clarke, presi- dent of the League of American Bicyclists. Hirsch logs ten miles a day on errands and pleasure rides. "Cars stop for you," she marvels. Indeed, injuries from bike-car crashes have stayed at 150 to 200 a year as ridership has soared. What would it take for a city to be as bikeable as Portland? A redivision of street space and lots of paint. And what would it take to encourage more cycling? The federal Bike Com- muter Act is a good start. As of January 1, employers can give a $20 monthly tax-free credit to cyclists for bike-related bills. ---Marc Silver TECHNOLOGY Bikes on bus racks April to August 2008 Houston, TX +235% 1,510 to 5,059 bikes Hartford, CT +159% 820 to 2,122 Charlotte, NC +71% 4,977 to 8,519 BIKE SPIKE The rise in gas prices has set off a cycling spurt. One measure: The use of bike racks on buses is soaring.