December 23rd, 2010

How cities might vie for the cycling class

From time to time, and by and by, I find myself reading an advertisement for a job just like mine, only in some other city. Were I a classic "creative" I guess I would be evaluating prospective new cities for my family and I, according to cultural amenities. Independent bookshops. Alternative cinemas. Farmer's markets. However, I am personally far more interested in what kind of life a city can give me as a cyclist, than me as a bourgeois. I strap into my googlemapscraft, fly in for a few random street views, and start looking at the width of road shoulders, and whether or not urban areas have designated bicycle lanes.

I'm not a big fan of I find it cluttered with dangerous routes posted by braggarts. The cycling layer on seems only to work for North America. Calling bike shops yields blinkered responses. I would propose an international bike friendly star rating system for cities, but doubt suitable terms of reference could be agreed on: I can imagine tokenism pushing one city's score higher, while another city's genuine but less obvious appeal to real riders, might go unacknowledged. 

The answer, I think, is a review site, where riders/writers actually go out and road test various cities. I'll road test my own for you all in coming weeks, as an example. End of trip facilities, on road routes, driver attitudes, designated routes, informal routes, numbers of social and sporting bike groups: all could be mentioned as part of a comprehensive written review, that would help the cycling class in their gradual migration toward cities that want them, and away from cities that don't.