Saturday, 16 January 2021

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Cycling can be faster, more convenient and social too!

Bicycles Copenhagen | Hunter Desportes Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Biking has become a serious alternative to the car in many Europeans cities. In Copenhagen 62 % of all inhabitants use their bike to work every single day and 50 % of all city-center trips are made by bike.

Today on 3 June 2018 we celebrate the very first official World Bicycle Day, to appreciate the role that bicycles play in promoting good health and in building sustainable cities. The day encourages UN Member States to develop a culture of cycling in society in order to strengthen physical and mental health and well-being.

Many see Copenhagen as a cyclers´ paradise.  An important principle for Copenhagen city planning is that biking has to be the easy option, and not just the healthy one. Although many people know that taking their bike to work is good for both their health and the environment, they might not choose this option until it becomes both faster and more convenient than taking the car.

In Amsterdam, another European city known for biking, a Bicycle Mayor has been appointed. “A Bicycle Mayor is the human face of cycling in a city, representing all cycling citizens,” says Inge Janssen, the network coordinator of the global Bicycle Mayor and Leader Program. Cities across the United States, India, Brazil, South-Africa, Lebanon and Australia participate in the program, which has a so-called 50by30 vision: 50% of all city trips by bike in 2030.

In an ideal cycling city like Copenhagen bikers enjoy wide bike lanes, raised platforms near traffic lights so cyclists can rest their feet while stopping, and customized garbage cans tilted towards the road at an angle so they can easily discard rubbish without having to slow down. When it snows, the city clears the bike lanes before it clears the car routes.

“An ideal cycling city is spacious, clean and social!”says Jansen, the Bicyle Mayors´coordinator. “You can cycle from home to work on a network of streets with enough space for bikes, cargo bikes, small electric slow vehicles without stopping at busy intersections.”

Many who are favourable to cycling find it hard to put theory into practice. Philippe Chabot, an ICT Manager at UNRIC who works in Brussels, cycles 30 km to work every day, and then the same distance back home in the countryside in the afternoon.

“It started when I stopped smoking ten years ago. I needed to do some sports, but I didn’t have time to go to the gym”, he says. “As I started to get into it, I smoothly progressed. In the beginning I was slower, and it took me almost an hour to do 17 km. Now I am doing 30 km in 50 minutes. It’s completely different.”

Philippe Chabot, UN Brussels, Cycling at 'L'étape du Tour' race.

Philippe is however meeting some challenges during his daily trip through villages, forests, and of course, the busy European capital. He explains that there is usually not a clear or separate bicycle lane. “There are some places where it is really dangerous, and I can understand why some people are not keen to get on their bikes”, he admits.

Still, he wouldn’t swap his bike with any other vehicle. “It is not only the fastest way to get to work, but it’s also the best for my health. I feel much better since I started. With the level of stress that I have here, it is the best way to reduce stress, and arrive at home with a smile,” Philippe says, and then adds: “I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a way to optimize their time. There is nothing faster or more convenient, at least that is what I have found.”

Convenient and fast, and, yes, social too!

“On your bike you will have many social interactions,” says Jansen. “it’s easy to stop at a small shop to do some groceries or to say hi to a neighbour. You enjoy the clean air and you are getting some physical activity done at the same time. People will be more vital and healthy.”

Here are some more reasons to celebrate the bicycle this Sunday:

  • The bicycle is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean, environmentally friendly and sustainable means of transportation
  • The bicycle can serve as a tool for development and as a means not just of transportation but also of access to education, health care and sport
  • The synergy between the bicycle and the user fosters creativity and social engagement and gives the user an immediate awareness of the local environment
  • The bicycle is a symbol of sustainable transportation and conveys a positive message to foster sustainable consumption and production, and has a positive impact on climate and the environment.


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