Transportation planners in the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark have invested heavily in bicycle paths and lanes, discouraged the use of cars, and gone to great efforts to protect the legal rights and safety of cyclists. A few stats:
1 percent of trips in the United States are made on a bicycle. That's 10 percent in Germany, 18 percent in Denmark, and 27 percent in the Netherlands. In Portland, Ore., 3.5 percent of trips to work are made by bike, the highest share among the 50 largest American cities. The lowest: Kansas City, Mo., at a paltry 0.02 percent.
37 percent of short trips (under 2.5 kilometers, or 1.5 miles) are made on a bicycle in the Netherlands, compared with 2 percent in the United States. 1.1 cyclists are killed per 100 million km cycled there; in the United States, 5.8 cyclists are killed per 100 million km.
Motorists are legally responsible for collisions with children and elderly cyclists in the Netherlands and Germany even when cyclists are disobeying traffic rules. (Not generally true here.) However, bicyclists who disobey the rules of the road there are more likely to be ticketed.
Alcohol use, by driver or cyclist, was reported in more than one third of U.S. crashes that resulted in cyclist fatalities in 2006.
Sources: "Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons From the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany" by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, Transport Reviews, 2008; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; U.S. Census