requiring zoning to take into account bicycles
Yesterday I was running some errands, and being a lazy uncommitted weekend aside from some training runs and swims I had some slop time in the schedule (though in my slop I think my laundry has slopped out and may go into Monday unless I get really inspired). I decided to do as many of my errands using my bicycle. One of these included swinging to the Borders about 4 miles away to pick up a book on iPhone Development (one of the ideas I'm mulling is an app for companies to encourage alternative commuting.) Sometimes a local book store beats an internet one, and I know I should consider independent but something to be said for being in stock too. (Though the independent would have been a shorter bike ride).
Borders as oft is the case is in a strip mall, so popular in suburban areas and as I pulled in I did the usual thing one does with a vehicle, look for parking. Unfortunately, there weren't many bike racks and most people were just locking their bikes by the garbage cans (hmmm, odd symbolism). In the complex I noticed that there spaces for 4 maybe 6 bicycles. Contrast that to the number of cars. I was willing to go the other end of the strip mall and found an empty rack, but if the others had parked there instead of by the trash cans I'd be out of luck. Why so few bicycle racks?
An interesting thing that you may not know is that when one builds a large building or development, most city/county zoning laws mandate a number of parking spaces per square footage of retail. This is one of the reason suburban shopping malls resemble a wacked out Christo art piece where the mall is an island surrounded by a lily pad of asphalt. To my knowledge no corresponding zoning requirement exists for bicycles. Do people not ride bicycles because they won't find parking? Of is there no bike parking because no one rides. Probably a combination of both.
Our laws define our environment, and when willingly favor cars, people will go to cars. Japan is going to great lengths to build bicycle garages to help bike/rail commuters with vast bicycle garages. Finding parking for bicycles and relaxing social norms for sweat will help support alternative transportation.