U.S. cities spur bike use for climate, health

Mon Dec 14, 2009 4:19pm EST
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By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Christina Tierno started riding her bicycle into central Philadelphia during November's city transit strike, and she hasn't looked back.

Even when the strike ended and buses started running after a week, Tierno kept riding her bike, inspired by the discovery she could save time, money and, in her own small way, the planet, by using pedal power to get to work or school.

Tierno, 25, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student, says the three-mile (4.8-km) commute from her West Philadelphia home saves at least $15 a week in bus fares, cuts about 10 minutes off her trip, and makes her feel stronger and fitter.

She is one of a growing number of Philadelphia residents riding their bikes for transport -- as opposed to recreation -- in response to efforts by city government and local campaigners to make Philadelphia a more bike-friendly city.

According to the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, bike use in the city has more than doubled since 2005, a trend it attributes to higher gasoline prices, growing concern over climate change, creation of bike lanes, and what it calls a "growing urban bicycle culture."

Throughout the nation, the number of people bicycling to work has increased 43 percent since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, as more cities encourage residents to recognize the benefits of using their bikes for transportation.

Among U.S. cities, Portland, Oregon showed the biggest gain, tripling its proportion of bike commuters between 2000 and 2008 to a nation-leading 6 percent. Seattle, Minneapolis and Sacramento also had relatively high rates.

Philadelphia's rate rose to 1.6 this year from 1.2 percent in 2006.   Continued...

<p>A man and a child ride their bikes along a pier at St Kilda beach in Melbourne August 3, 2009. St Kilda beach is Melbourne's most famous beach, 6 km (3.7 miles) south of the central business district. REUTERS/Mick Tsikas</p>