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A Free-Wheeling City

Found this in this week’s Parade Magazine:

For a bicyclist, Darwin Hindman is rather nattily attired, wearing a crisp tweed blazer and an orange silk tie as he pilots his ancient mountain bike through the center of Columbia, Missouri. Hindman, 76, (pictured) is this Midwestern town’s mayor and a survivor of both esophageal and prostate cancer. As he glides along, coattails flying, he is savoring the streets of Columbia, which he’s transforming into one of the nation’s premier cycling cities.

“Here outside this café is a huge corral of racks for locking your bike,” Hindman says, riding along happily. “And here, we’ve painted a bike lane. We want bicyclists to feel as happy as larks out in the road.”

Until recently, Columbia (pop. 100,733) was, like most American cities, designed almost exclusively for automobile transit, offering up a host of four-lane mini-highways over which motorists could zoom between parking lots. For Hindman, a retired lawyer, the situation was all wrong. “If we depend too much on cars, then we increase our reliance on foreign oil, childhood obesity goes up, and life just isn’t as much fun,” he says.

Across the country, the number of bicyclists has exploded. Between 2003 and 2007, the number of American bike commuters increased 38%. Yet many of these riders are forced onto dangerously crowded streets and roads designed for motorists, not bicyclists. In fact, in 2007, 698 cyclists nationwide were killed and more than 44,000 were injured in collisions with motor vehicles.

The Federal Highway Administration has launched a pilot program with an aim to make roads safer and more enjoyable. More than $90 million has been allocated to four communities—Columbia, Minneapolis, Sheboygan County, Wis., and Marin County, Calif. Each will receive about $22.5 million to make them more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.

Read entire ariticle. . .

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