In 1964, just over 50 percent of American students rode a bike to school and the rate of obesity for children was 10 percent. In 2006, three percent of Americans students rode a bike to school and 35 percent were overweight. Currently, it is estimated that 62 percent of American adults are overweight or obese.
Burgeoning American waistlines are a harbinger of a gathering national health storm, and the crisis around oil as our premier energy source is just now reaching critical mass. Even the most oblivious "ditto-head" cannot deny that we can no longer rely on oil as a long term energy source.
Europe has been dealing with expensive gasoline for many years. Perhaps that is why bicycle use in much of Europe is at a much higher level than in the U.S. Many European cities have built many miles of bike paths to encourage bicycle use and it has worked. 40 percent of all traffic movement in Amsterdam, the Netherlands is by bicycle. While Amsterdam is not especially identified for having a warm and dry climate that would encourage biking, its citizens don't seem to mind.
In fact, most of the top bike friendly cities in the world are not warm climates. The top American city for bicycle use is rain-soaked Portland, Oregon. Portland's bicycle culture is strong and growing. Since 1990 the number of bike paths has grown from 60 to 260 miles. Copenhagen, often called the city of bikes, has the most progressive city plan for increasing bicycle use. They have been successful in creating separate bike paths with their own signals making it the safest place in the world to bike. About 32 percent of the 1.8 million residents get around on a bicycle.
As greater access to safe biking has been made available, more and more residents have taken up biking. Sandnes, Norway; Trondheim, Norway; Berlin, Germany; Barcelona, Spain and Basel, Switzerland are some of the most bike friendly cities in the world. Some of the cities mentioned feature large urban populations and many have cold or otherwise inclement weather at least part of the year.