I'd like to pick up on my post from earlier this week about what it really takes to make the choice to bike to work. The underlying context there was that for someone living in, say, Newtown Square and working in Center City, the choice to bike to work really meant moving into Philadelphia, rather than simply giving up four wheels for two.
Of course, there's another way I could've made this point. Growing up in Silicon Valley and now living in Philadelphia, I can tell you that it's a lot easier to choose to bike to work when you live in a big city in the northeastern US than when you live in a suburban California community.
My dad actually biked to work. Of course, he's a fitness buff (he started a fitness club at his workplace), lived less 5 miles away from his job, didn't go out for lunch (said it made him sleepy), and didn't have much need for out-of-office meetings (he was an electrical engineer). Needless to say, I didn't know many other Bay Areans who rode their bikes to work.
I guess I could look this up, but I'm lazy, so I'll guess: I venture that the bicycle mode share in Philadelphia is at least twice that of San Jose's. Which means that if Philadelphia had San Jose's bicycle mode share, there'd be thousands more cars on the road. (Let's not even compare the walk mode share in these two cities; the difference there would probably be into the tends of thousands.)
I find this particularly delicious, and not just because I have a personal connection to both places. Philadelphia is much derided for being not the fitness capital of the world; I seem to recall that we were voted "fattest city" by some magazine a few years back. San Jose, on the other hand, is in the heart of an area in which fitness and exercise are king; and yet, the vast majority of workers there hop into their cars (which are stored inside their house!), drive to work, and hop out just feet from their front entrances.
Obviously, commuting isn't the only time you can get your workout on. But that's not my point. What I'm trying to convey is that it's easier to choose to bike to work in Philadelphia than in San Jose. And since there are a lot of people who live in places like San Jose, it's going to take a lot to move the national needle on bike mode share.