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Bicycle Commuting is harder in the U.S. than Europe ?

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Old 10-25-14, 08:05 AM
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CrankyOne
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Bicycle Commuting is harder in the U.S. than Europe ?

This exchange from the clothing thread got me thinking...

Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
Don't live so far from work. Quite easy. Or move jobs to work where you live.

I guess I'm confused as to why this is tough in any metro area in the US as the public transport and cost of buying a place are quite low (in terms of average yearly salary) compared to Europe.

I'm looking at buying a place in London and now the average price is more than 20x the average yearly yearly salary (27k/year across the UK average and 550k average sale price in London). If one extrapolates the average salary across the US, most places are much more affordable (less than $800k USD if average wage is roughly $40K/year).

Part of me thinks that you guys just don't make the effort to live close to work.
Nothing quite like cross cultural generalizations where one culture is "superior" to another. Good for you for putting your scientific expertise to such good use in improving trans-Atlantic understanding.
Is it really harder in the U.S. or is it that we have to give up more of other things?
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Old 10-25-14, 08:45 AM
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It Must be people who commute, there just Do It, and dont write about it like its a Big deal of Defying Death Everyday.

I Know nothing about your situation . Ive Coped ... now Im close in, in a small town .




If you have a PhD and can get a Job teaching in a European School Go For it .

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Old 10-25-14, 09:13 AM
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I would imagine commuting in Europe or the U.S. (or Japan, Australia, or other 'first world' area) is quite comparable, due to extensive infrastructure.

Commuting in India, or other less developed parts of the world is a whole different set of challenges, I'm sure.
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Old 10-25-14, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by cobrabyte View Post
I would imagine commuting in Europe or the U.S. (or Japan, Australia, or other 'first world' area) is quite comparable, due to extensive infrastructure.

Commuting in India, or other less developed parts of the world is a whole different set of challenges, I'm sure.
Most places in USA have no commuting infrastructure for bikes. Roads are made for cars and that is it,and those roads frequently are falling apart. And to make matters better the single-person occupied cars using those roads are of the opinion that bicyclists have zero ight to use those roads and are jagoffs about it.

You want to live close to work? Guess what...you'll be 10 miles away from the nearest grocery store. Unlike most other (read smaller) countries we in the USA have tons of sprawl.

Further living close to work will likely not pay the bills like rent/mortgages/food/insurance etc.
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Old 10-25-14, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Is it really harder in the U.S. or is it that we have to give up more of other things?
It depends where you live and what you do. If you have a universal profession that is needed everywhere (architect, barista, whatever) then you might be able to choose your location, either so you can bike or so you can be close to family or so you can be in NYC or whatever. My chosen career and expertise limits me to working in only a few places in the country. None of them are city centers, some of them are deep in the desert or swamps. I picked the company I'm at precisely because it's the nicest place to do this job. The ability to bike-commute is one of the things that makes it nice. I don't take it for granted. At one internship I had, the commute was a 100 mile round trip.
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Old 10-25-14, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Most places in USA have no commuting infrastructure for bikes. Roads are made for cars and that is it,and those roads frequently are falling apart. And to make matters better the single-person occupied cars using those roads are of the opinion that bicyclists have zero ight to use those roads and are jagoffs about it.

You want to live close to work? Guess what...you'll be 10 miles away from the nearest grocery store. Unlike most other (read smaller) countries we in the USA have tons of sprawl.

Further living close to work will likely not pay the bills like rent/mortgages/food/insurance etc.
You don't think folks in Europe experience the exact same list of challenges? They're still "first world problems"...and they certainly don't apply to many parts of the country. 10 miles from a grocery store? Maybe in rural Nebraska or something, certainly not where I live. Roads are made for cars? At least they're paved. A few 'cycling friendly' cities in Europe notwithstanding, your complaints are as valid for European commuters as they are for Americans. I think you missed my point.

Try riding your bike to work in Jamaica, your list of complaints pale in comparison.
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Old 10-25-14, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
It depends where you live and what you do. If you have a universal profession that is needed everywhere (architect, barista, whatever) then you might be able to choose your location, either so you can bike or so you can be close to family or so you can be in NYC or whatever. My chosen career and expertise limits me to working in only a few places in the country. None of them are city centers, some of them are deep in the desert or swamps. I picked the company I'm at precisely because it's the nicest place to do this job. The ability to bike-commute is one of the things that makes it nice. I don't take it for granted. At one internship I had, the commute was a 100 mile round trip.
It is easy to suggest:

Don't live so far from work. Quite easy. Or move jobs to work where you live.

IF/WHEN a person has no requirement to consider anyone else's lifestyle or needs but his own; no spouse, no children, no concern for proximity to family or friends, no nuthin' but his own residence and workplace locations, and his commuting preferences back and forth between those locations.

Last edited by no1mad; 10-25-14 at 11:01 AM.
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Old 10-25-14, 10:51 AM
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Originally Posted by cobrabyte View Post
Try riding your bike to work in Jamaica, your list of complaints pale in comparison.
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Old 10-25-14, 11:09 AM
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True, my wording may seem to trivialize the challenges Marcus_Ti provided. It was meant to expand the gauge we are using to compare regional differences in commuting, but I see your point.

The discussion at hand is whether commuting is better or worse in Europe vs. the U.S. I'm arguing that it is neither, the similarities outnumber the differences. Folks in Europe face the same challenges that folks in the States do, and vice-versa.

Do you disagree? If so, let's hear it.
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Old 10-25-14, 11:28 AM
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"Europe" isn't one city or even one country either. We hear a lot in the bike world about Amsterdam and Copenhagen but I haven't been there to see. I have been to...

In Paris people seemed mad for commute cycling. Not only was there Velib, which worked great, but there seemed to be an old ten speed or modern hybrid chained to every pole. Drivers were accustomed to bikes, too.

In Barcelona it was even more touristy. Hotels had bikes to loan. Personal bikes, for whatever reason, seemed to be either the same sort of inexpensive midgrade MTB you see everywhere in the States, or folders. There was a bike share and it looked like it worked ok; I saw people on the bikes but I didn't try it.

In Rome I didn't see many bikes at all. It's hilly and there's no traffic enforcement. The bike share is a cruel hoax; there are few stations and no bikes in them. We rode rental bikes around the Borghese Gardens but that's not commuting.

We also had a cruise that put into several ports along southern France and western Italy. Many of them seemed fine for biking. The poorer the place seemed the more bikes there were, as you might expect.
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Old 10-25-14, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by cobrabyte View Post
True, my wording may seem to trivialize the challenges Marcus_Ti provided. It was meant to expand the gauge we are using to compare regional differences in commuting, but I see your point.

The discussion at hand is whether commuting is better or worse in Europe vs. the U.S. I'm arguing that it is neither, the similarities outnumber the differences. Folks in Europe face the same challenges that folks in the States do, and vice-versa.

Do you disagree? If so, let's hear it.
That's cool. I disagree, but not strongly, and not with any hope of showing hard evidence. But my rationale:

1. More tendency towards urban sprawl in the US, perhaps because we simply have more space, and we subsidize residential construction. My house is on a quarter acre, and it's considered urban.

2. A generally tougher life in the US for working class people, who are juggling multiple part time jobs, to stay afloat, plus dealing with child care etc. Having no time to spare discourages bike use.

3. The difference between jobs and good jobs. The US still has a viable manufacturing sector, that produces better jobs than the service sector for working class people. But manufacturing is seldom done in residential areas.

4. The difference between schools and good schools. Use of property taxes to fund schools has exacerbated economic segregation in the US. We have to consider the quality of the schools, and not just proximity to jobs, when we choose where to live.

5. More extremes of climate in the US.

Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
The poorer the place seemed the more bikes there were, as you might expect.
The opposite is true in my locale. My impression is that the folks who can bike to work are more affluent and educated. We can compete for more desirable jobs, and demand things like flexible hours and bike parking. We can afford to choose where to live, and where our kids will go to school. Our voices are heard by the city and state governments.

My family lives in a neighborhood where my spouse and I can both bike to work. She can also take the bus. The kids can bike or walk to top-rated schools, and we're within walking distance of shops. It's safe for the kids, day or night. When Target wanted to build a store in the neighborhood, they had to submit a plan for making it pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

But if you work at one of those shops, then you can't afford to live here.

Also, if you're more affluent, then you're more healthy too. Being in reasonably good physical condition encourages bike use.

Last edited by Gresp15C; 10-25-14 at 12:00 PM.
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Old 10-25-14, 12:01 PM
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Of course Infrastructure for Who ? Cars and trucks, US, yes . add a stripe of paint and a stencil and call it Good.
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Old 10-25-14, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
That's cool. I disagree, but not strongly, and not with any hope of showing hard evidence. But my rationale:

1. More tendency towards urban sprawl in the US, perhaps because we simply have more space, and we subsidize residential construction. My house is on a quarter acre, and it's considered urban.

2. A generally tougher life in the US for working class people, who are juggling multiple part time jobs, to stay afloat, plus dealing with child care etc. Having no time to spare discourages bike use.

3. The difference between jobs and good jobs. The US still has a viable manufacturing sector, that produces better jobs than the service sector for working class people. But manufacturing is seldom done in residential areas.

4. The difference between schools and good schools. Use of property taxes to fund schools has exacerbated economic segregation in the US. We have to consider the quality of the schools, and not just proximity to jobs, when we choose where to live.

5. More extremes of climate in the US.


The opposite is true in my locale. My impression is that the folks who can bike to work are more affluent and educated. We can compete for more desirable jobs, and demand things like flexible hours and bike parking. We can afford to choose where to live, and where our kids will go to school. Our voices are heard by the city and state governments.

My family lives in a neighborhood where my spouse and I can both bike to work. She can also take the bus. The kids can bike or walk to top-rated schools, and we're within walking distance of shops. It's safe for the kids, day or night. When Target wanted to build a store in the neighborhood, they had to submit a plan for making it pedestrian- and bike-friendly.

But if you work at one of those shops, then you can't afford to live here.

Also, if you're more affluent, then you're more healthy too. Being in reasonably good physical condition encourages bike use.
I can agree with a number of your points. One I have to disagree with is that affluent folks commute more than working class folks. For every 'commuter' that I pass on the way to work, I pass no less than 20 that, though they may not fit the 'commuter' profile, are certainly bike commuters. I'm talking people riding BSO's to their job working in the kitchen of a restaurant, or migrant workers, or all the other people that don't choose to commute by bike, but do it because they simply can't afford a car.

I also worked for many years at a factory. Plenty of my co-workers commuted by bike, though I doubt any of them ever visit this forum. Where I live, I actually enjoy riding through the poorer sections of town more. So many people there get around on bikes, that they are more accepted by drivers, and so they give more space and harass less. Riding through the more affluent area, you get a lot more soccer moms honking at you and BMW drivers buzzing you as they pass.
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Old 10-25-14, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Is it really harder in the U.S. or is it that we have to give up more of other things?
It all depends on the location. Some US/Canadian suburbs can be hell for bicycle commuters.
Not all European countries are friendly or safe for cyclists. Have you ever seen driving habits of people in some eastern bloc countries and russia ??
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Old 10-25-14, 01:06 PM
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Yes! It's all in the attitude! U.S. have an "attitude toward bikes (for the most part, and is changing, I see it.) that bikes are recreational toys. Europeans on the other hand are raise with bikes as utilitarian vehicles. All this reflects on the laws, infrastructure and car drivers attitude toward bikes are different in both places.

i enjoy all kinds of bike riding in different countries, like I enjoy fishing for all kind of fish. But given a choice, I take a tour over Europe than the U.S., like I would take trout fly fishing over deep sea fishing! It's more peaceful and satisfying!

Because it's harder, I like commuting in the U.S. I seen German cops stop and give bike riders speeding tickets in Cologne. I have never seen this in the US. I understand safe and order and all that, but I rather make my own safety, than the police state tell me how to ride!

Doible O

p.s. It's the wild west of bike riding here!
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Old 10-25-14, 01:31 PM
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Without diving in deeper in what I consider to be a very broad generalization. I've commuted in Seattle, Anchorage, and Fairbanks in the US. I've also commuted in Frankfurt, in Munich, and in areas around Munich extending into Austria. I much prefer Germany, and found it much easier and safer.
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Old 10-25-14, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Gresp15C View Post
2. A generally tougher life in the US for working class people, who are juggling multiple part time jobs, to stay afloat, plus dealing with child care etc. Having no time to spare discourages bike use.
Really?
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Old 10-25-14, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Really?
Not really, judging by unemployment numbers for Spain...
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Old 10-25-14, 01:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Not really, judging by unemployment numbers for Spain...
Then they're not biking to work.

Sorry, that was just a sick joke, couldn't resist.

I suspect there is a lot of variation across Europe as there is across the US, along with reasonable disagreements about how to measure economic conditions.
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Old 10-25-14, 02:00 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
This exchange from the clothing thread got me thinking...
Is it really harder in the U.S. or is it that we have to give up more of other things?
Bike commuting is pure hell in many parts of Europe...
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Old 10-25-14, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
Bike commuting is pure hell in many parts of Europe...
Brussels, Budapest, maybe Rome. London isn't a picnic but better than many places in the U.S. Milan is surprisingly OK in my limited experience.
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Old 10-25-14, 09:44 PM
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Originally Posted by cobrabyte View Post
I can agree with a number of your points. One I have to disagree with is that affluent folks commute more than working class folks. For every 'commuter' that I pass on the way to work, I pass no less than 20 that, though they may not fit the 'commuter' profile, are certainly bike commuters. I'm talking people riding BSO's to their job working in the kitchen of a restaurant, or migrant workers, or all the other people that don't choose to commute by bike, but do it because they simply can't afford a car.

I also worked for many years at a factory. Plenty of my co-workers commuted by bike, though I doubt any of them ever visit this forum. Where I live, I actually enjoy riding through the poorer sections of town more. So many people there get around on bikes, that they are more accepted by drivers, and so they give more space and harass less. Riding through the more affluent area, you get a lot more soccer moms honking at you and BMW drivers buzzing you as they pass.
This has been my experience as well. I live in inner ring suburb. I much prefer riding into the city vs. riding deeper into the suburbs.

Regarding Europe, I don't recall a lot of cyclists in Dortmund, although my contact biked to his town train station. The train dropped him walking distance to the plant. Czech Republic seemed to have a really high percentage of commuters. Amsterdam was the highest density of bikes I've ever seen, and they seemed to rule. Everywhere i was in Netherlands it seemed pededstrians and motorists yielded to cyclists. We were staying in a small town near Schiphol airport. The day i rented a bike from the hotel and went to neighboring towns, one of the more striking things to me were that no kids seemed to be bused or car pooled to school. I rode past a school late afternoon and it was mass exodus by bike. I rode a little amongst cars, but many areas had dedicated roadway systems for bikes with numbered road markings.
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Old 10-25-14, 11:42 PM
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I can't speak on other cities but living in Portland, it's not the best but it's ideal since the Portland metro area is bike friendly. If you can't make the ride from the suburbs, most people multi-modal commute if they are keen on not driving. You can take the bus or max closer to the city core and bike the rest.
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Old 10-26-14, 12:22 PM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
Brussels, Budapest, maybe Rome. London isn't a picnic but better than many places in the U.S. Milan is surprisingly OK in my limited experience.
Large parts of Spain and Italy make London seem like tea and biscuits. Bucharest and Sofia are on another level. And while part of Istanbul is technically not Europe it's one of the worst places I've ever cycled in (then again Turkey is also one of the deadliest places to drive in the world so it's not personal).

Last edited by spare_wheel; 10-26-14 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 10-27-14, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by CrankyOne View Post
This exchange from the clothing thread got me thinking...



Is it really harder in the U.S. or is it that we have to give up more of other things?
It's harder in some places and easier in others...just like Europe. I doubt that rural areas in any country have much infrastructure for commuting while urban areas do.

Further, the cost of buy a residence in any large large city is going to pale in comparison to buying outside of a city. That's why we have so much sprawl in the US. The city center is expensive while further out is usually less expensive. The median US income is around $50,000 which is only slightly higher than the UK income ($43,000). Comparing apples to apples, you couldn't buy a residence in New York City on the median income either. You couldn't hardly buy a residence on a median US income in the City and County of Denver. Average prices in my neighborhood are 10 to 15 times the median income.

If you go 10 to 40 miles outside of Denver, the prices fall precipitously.

Originally Posted by Marcus_Ti View Post
Most places in USA have no commuting infrastructure for bikes. Roads are made for cars and that is it,and those roads frequently are falling apart. And to make matters better the single-person occupied cars using those roads are of the opinion that bicyclists have zero ight to use those roads and are jagoffs about it.

You want to live close to work? Guess what...you'll be 10 miles away from the nearest grocery store. Unlike most other (read smaller) countries we in the USA have tons of sprawl.

Further living close to work will likely not pay the bills like rent/mortgages/food/insurance etc.
You are completely wrong. In large cities, there are, generally, lots of infrastructure for bicycles and bicycle commuting. Enough so that the number of bicycle commuters are several times what the national average is. The national average is very low (0.5%) but still...

Outside of cities, the infrastructure for bicycle commuting is mostly nonexistent but you'd expect that. You can't spend $100,000 per mile on a bike path without some riders using it. I've never found rural roads to be all that bad for riding on.
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