It can’t happen overnight, but it can happen.
Check out my new bike! It’s an Electra Loft 7i, built for comfort and practicality, not speed, which is exactly what I’ve wanted for many years. In the United States for way too long, bicycling was seen as a sport or something only kids did, not as a normal way to get from point A to point B. In an ideal world, I’d bike, walk, and take public transit everywhere (I spent the first two years of my working life using my car once a week only to get groceries). Unfortunately, since I now live in the birthplace of the mass-produced automobile, that’s not feasible. Yet.
My two-wheeled history
When I started biking as an adult, the only options were road bikes or mountain bikes, and as a 5′ 2′ short-waisted woman, choices were limited. On top of that, I reluctantly learned how to ride on the road with cars, but it took only one close call near Capitol Hill to send me back onto the nice, quiet multi-use paths, which were fine as long as I didn’t want to actually go anywhere.
When I moved back to Michigan, I rode very little except for a few times when I got my hands on a 1970s Schwinn and a 1940s British bike, both of which were the kind of sturdy, utilitarian bikes I longed for. Like Jason Slaughter of Not Just Bikes, I’m not a cyclist. I don’t care about speed, the sport, the latest tech gear, or ::shudder:: Lycra. I certainly don’t want to sit leaning forward and messing with my lines of sight, back, shoulders, neck, and wrists all in one go. I just want the equivalent of walking on two wheels so I can ride places without worrying I’ll get hit by a car.
Things change, slowly
Many years and a pandemic later, some leaders in the U.S. are finally figuring out that perhaps making bikes and cars duke it out in the same road isn’t such a great idea. They recognize that maybe we need to design human-scale places that accommodate multiple ways for people to get around, whether it’s by foot, bike, mobility scooter, wheelchair, mass transit, car, whatever. It’s long overdue. Some countries, especially The Netherlands, are decades ahead of us, but we can learn from them if we’re willing to.
My county has a transit proposal on the ballot this year and three towns near me are in the process of improving their streets to be more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. My town isn’t terrible, and I see people of all ages outside walking/sometimes biking/doing their thing, but it can be so much better. I’m glad there now seem to be more people who want what I want. I only hope that if/when things change, I’ll live long enough to enjoy it.