The observations in this blog “US cycling from a Dutch perspective” can easily be extended to apply to Australia as well.
Some extracts from the article:
The average cyclist in San Francisco seems to be a young fit adult, mostly male and appears to be in a constant hurry.
In Amsterdam (and elsewhere in the Netherlands) the range of people cycling is much broader.
“The main difference between the US and the Netherlands is that cycling is not seen as transportation in the US by the general public. Only very few people use the bicycle to go from A to B for their daily business. For the average American cycling is something kids do or when you do cycle as an adult, it is mainly for recreational purposes. And you dress up for the part: wearing hi-viz, a helmet, with a bicycle to match, one the Dutch would call a ‘race bike’.”
“The bike tracks in Chicago are also ‘on the other side of parked cars’. That enhances the feeling of safety”. “But most of the streets without cycle infra that I saw in Chicago did not look very inviting, not enough at least, to try and ride a bicycle myself.”
And from the comments:
“Chicago, San Francisco and Davis are three of my tops picks of places that are leading examples of bicycling in the U.S. and are a fair example of typical traffic engineering throughout the country. San Francisco is one of the top five large cities for bicycle commuting modal share. Chicago is the third largest city in the U.S. and will shortly displace New York City with the most miles of cycle track installations. Davis was the first U.S. city to have bike lanes and a bicycle specific signal. It also has by far the largest bicycle commuting modal share of any U.S. city at about 15%”
“My impression was that cities like New York and Chicago believe that increased cycling use makes them ‘cool’ places, even to those who don’t ride themselves. Hence their efforts with city bike systems etc.”
“Proper infra tends to drive cycling everywhere. This is a photograph of one of my favorite cycle paths here in Toronto. The concrete monoliths are the remains of a car-only expressway that was cancelled and turned into a bicycle only path.
See how in the photo everyone has their space. There is a sidewalk for pedestrians on the far left, the cycle path in the centre and the road for car drivers on the right.”