Cycling in Texas: An uphill battle

TEXAS, where expansive highways teem with trucks and tank-like Hummers, hardly seems like a good place for bicycles. Cities sprawl for hundreds of miles, and bike lanes are rare. Intrepid cyclists are rarer still.Some Texas cities want to change this. San Antonio plans to triple bike-able and walk-able streets by 2020. Dallas, long thought the worst city for bicycles in America, has unveiled ambitious plans for a new network of more than 1,100 miles of bike lanes over the next ten years. Since 2011 four Texan cities have begun bike-sharing schemes, most recently in Austin just before Christmas. Advocates tout the benefits to health and the environment, and hope bicycles will relieve congestion in the busiest parts of town.Not everyone is pleased. True, the number of cyclists has greatly increased in most Texas cities, in line with national trends. From 1990 to 2012 bike commutes in Austin grew by 68%, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Houston, Dallas and Fort Worth have also seen notable, albeit more modest, gains. But bicycles still make up only a sliver of the state’s urban commutes at 2% (Portland, America’s most bike-loving city, boasts more than 6%). That number plummets further still in rural parts of the state. Suburbanites grumble that they will be subsidising a lifestyle choice for downtown hipsters, as the new bike lanes and bike-sharing schemes …

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