Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on July 24th, 2008 at 2:04 am
Portland might have been the first big city to garner the League of American Bicyclists’ coveted “Platinum” bicycle-friendly community rating, but Davis is a small town in central California that has held the honor since September of 2005.
I arrived in Davis this afternoon and so far, I can say they definitely deserve it.
Even with school out for the summer (Davis is home to UC Davis, a major college), bikes are everywhere. Later today I’ll get a more comprehensive look at their famous bikeway network and facilities (via a tour from a local), but I thought I’d share some initial impressions after my first evening in town.
The first thing I noticed was the town’s official logo — a bike. It’s emblazoned on concrete trash barrels throughout the city and it sets a nice, welcoming tone if you’re a bike lover.
Once into town I immediately sensed the bike traffic; two or three bikes at every intersection, bikes parked in front of businesses, people walking bikes on sidewalks. The other thing I noticed was that the people seemed comfortable on their bikes, almost serene. And the majority of them were not wearing helmets. This was in stark contrast to San Francisco, where I noticed an almost warrior-like, battle-weary countenance on most bike commuters (and a corresponding high rate of helmet use).
Of course I realize the two cities are vastly different in size and traffic volume, but the comparison struck me nonetheless.
Another thing you can’t miss in downtown Davis is the bike parking. I walked by a Bank of America and saw several rows of bike racks placed right up front and center (just like they should be).
Walking on the sidewalks with my family I also noticed a subtle but very appreciated feature of their streetscape — a 7-8 foot wide buffer between parked cars and the pedestrian space. This buffer not only makes for a much more pleasurable walking experience, but it also provides a natural (and quite perfect) space for bike parking that does not clutter up the sidewalk.
We eventually made our way to the Davis Farmers Market. There were hundreds and hundreds of bikes at the park for the event. I even saw a group of people picnicking next to a bakfiets (which, according to the sticker on the cargo bin was purchased from Portland’s own Clever Cycles bike shop), which was parked next to a bike with an Xtracycle kit — a scene that could have easily passed for Portland.
In the park, and all through town, I noticed people of all ages riding bikes. From little kids riding 12-inch wheeled bikes in the bike lane, to 60-somethings on matching Trek mountain bikes, and young couples on tandems, biking appeals to everyone in Davis.
At the Sprockettes performance (which was awesome as usual, see photos here), the creative side of Davis’ bike culture was on display. Several freak bike showed up:
After the performance, the locals led a mini-mass of about 20 or so riders on a parade through downtown that included an impromptu dance session on a bike path and ended with a mellow, outdoor party on the campus of UC Davis.
Later today I hope to get a guided tour of Davis’ legendary bikeway facilities. They’ve got bike tunnels, bike signals, bike roundabouts (no stop signs!), and even a few interesting bike people.