Here's politician Margrete Auken, a Danish politican for the Socialist People's Party and she is currently a Member of the European Parliament:
Free the Cyclists!
Several large European cities are - gradually - starting to realise the blessings of bicycle culture: good for the environment, reducing energy use, better health and the auto-mobility of all traffic users. Both children and the elderly can get around if they can cycle safe and secure.
The city bikes in Paris are a success. In Brussels the bicycles happily turn right at red lights - often on the sidewalk! I cycle myself and it is the most liberating way to get around. And even though the Ardennes mountain range starts in the middle of Brussels, grandma here manages fine with two artificial knees and seven gears
The Hobart area is very hilly too, and I have to hand it to the multitude of cyclists here. I figure they are a hardy breed of mountain goats.
Fortunately, there is a 13-ish km cycleway along the river that is relatively flat so that people can cycle from downtown northward along that route, but venturing off the path often means quite a climb.
Unfortunately, I am not a mountain goat. I am a flatlander. So I'm finding some of the cycling here to be quite a challenge ... the hills do pose a formidable obstacle.
Given the choice between San Francisco and Minneapolis ...
I've been to San Francisco and my desire to cycle there is very low. Too many hills, too much city.
I haven't been to Minneapolis, but I've been in the vicinity, and of course, lived a little further north, and I could imagine myself cycling there despite the fact that winters get cold.
I think topography has a lot to do with who/how many will ride bikes. I live in Portland which is very flat. Add to that the long stretches of bike greenways and bike lanes where you can ride at a good clip for a good stretch before hitting a light or stoplight, plus the mild weather, and you have a good recipe for lots of people on bikes. The bike share programs that are doing well are usually located in flat places. I think hills are a major deterrent for most people, probably more of a deterrent than cold weather (although making e-bikes a part of bike share programs could solve that problem). As for San Fran and Seattle, it is possible to find flat routes there. I biked around Seattle last year on an old mountain bike that was way too small for me riding from downtown to Capitol Hill daily. It's a long hill but very gradual and there's a bike lane. Some of the hills (especially closer to the waterfront) are very steep (but short). I walked my bike up those!
When a 5 lane road was widened to 10 lanes plus a median, there was nothing left to stop the wind. That's an icy hammer in winter.
I lived in Copenhagen for some years and now live in Oslo. These cities have a lot in common, but its like comparing the Earth and Venus. "What exactly happened here?" At this point the problem is that, regardless of topography, Oslo has almost no bike infrastructure, nowhere really to build it, somewhat hostile drivers, and pretty extremist bikers. You might as well talk about terraforming Venus. Maybe the problem started with hills (and ice) but it is now more than that.
Why would regular people be tempted to start biking a place where literally everything is against them, including but not limited to the hills?
For a lot of people the description of a good bike city sounds like the title of a book by Thomas Friedman-- flat, hot and crowded.
Right now, in the middle of an epic winter, I'm seeing how important good snow removal is. The side streets are nearly impassable, but the main streets are great--and the MUP is plowed even before the main streets!! Usually I have to push my bike 100 feet from my house to the main street, but it's clear riding from there to the Rivertrail and wherever else I have to go. So the weather (3) isn't really the issue that makes or breaks bike riding. The main issue is maintenance of the infrastructure (1).
There are quite a few ways in which snow can torment a biker, I have observed. Slippery is the only one most bystanders notice, but thats just the beginning. I'm pretty impressed how rear-drive cars can skitter across the top of crap that I can't climb without the rear tire digging and scraping for traction.
Yeah maybe topology and weather can be in either order, I guess it depends on how much of each a person is experiencing. In Copenhagen and Oslo, its mostly rain, snow, rain and snow, and a bit of wind once in a while, maybe with some rain and snow there too. I'd rather bike a big hill in pleasant weather than a small one in the rain.