During the coronavirus lockdown, cities around the world discovered the wonders of clean air, responding with literally “concrete” measures to encourage more citizens to bicycle. This post reports on some of the global changes to cycling that we are seeing due to the Coronavirus (COVID 19).
Streets Now Giving Priority to Cyclists
Throughout the Paris region, for example, by simply applying white and yellow paint to street surfaces, a majority of the streets now give priority to the cyclist instead of the motorist.
Intended as temporary measures, so far, in the post-lockdown period, these streets have retained their bike priority.
Parisian city officials know that the more people who cycle, the sooner the city can move toward a clean-air utopia for all citizens, including those who choose to not cycle.
Benefits of Bike Commuting
Research from Holland published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that regular bicycle commuters gain one hour of life for each hour cycled, thanks to the health and psychological benefits of pedaling to work on human energy.
Imagine: one hour added to your life expectancy per hour ridden! This means that your net commute time becomes zero.
Thousands of deaths each year that are caused by poor air quality could be averted if a larger portion of the commuting mode shifted away from cars and to cycling and other forms of active transportation.
Joyous Mass Demonstrations
Bicycle organizations around the world bring these facts to the attention of local governments by showing their presence in joyous mass demonstrations, such as these two in Paris, France (MDB: Mieux se Déplacer à Bicyclette) and in La Paz, Bolivia (Masa Crítica-La Paz).
Cities Influenced to Become More Cyclist Friendly
The increasing numbers of cyclists on the streets and roads has influenced cities to make themselves more friendly to bicycle commuters. We’re seeing an increase in protected intersections and bike lanes, cycle highways, low-speed bike-priority streets and parking facilities. See also: “How COVID-19 Has Caused ‘Pop-Up’ Bike Lanes to Appear Overnight.”
What About Geographic Obstacles?
Improved safety and convenience will increase the modal share for the bicycle. But what about cities with geographic obstacles such as unending sprawl and hilly terrain? By blending bike commuting with public transit, cycling to both work and play can now be accomplished in places where it was once impossible.
A most extreme example is the rugged canyon city of La Paz, Bolivia at 12,000 feet above sea level, where bicycles are now allowed in the city’s 11-line aereal cable car transit system.
One of the most daunting challenges for the bicycler is sprawling Los Angeles, California. But now you can bike from home to the Metrolink train, and then from the train to either work or a recreational site.
Each time a citizen uses a bike instead of a car, the “one-car-less” factor translates into a reduction in carbon emissions. This is also true for bicycle touring, which brings to the art of travel a more satisfying interaction with both people and terrain.
With bike touring you cover less territory than in a car, but as a trade-off you get a much more vivid and intimate feel for the surroundings. “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best,” wrote Ernest Hemingway.
Cycling for Joy – and Health – and Friends – and Savings
The great news is that we can cycle for legitimate self-interest: the joy, the health benefits, the big savings, and then, without even thinking about it, the environmental benefits. There’s much talk about needing to make sacrifices to reduce energy consumption, but with the bicycle, we make no sacrifice. Our legitimate self-interest happens to coincide with the best interest of our climate and our planet.
Yes, fun, health, savings (at least $8,000 per year if you exchange the car for a bike) and convenience are measurable benefits from using the bicycle as transportation, but let’s not forget the less tangible benefit: conviviality.
Thanks to Guest Author Mark Cramer
Mark Cramer is the author of Old Man on a Green Bike: Chronicles of a Self-Serving Environmentalist.
Critical commentary on Cramer’s book:
“Mark Cramer is a master storyteller. His vast experience and research enables him to create descriptions of places and events that come to life in the mind of the reader, often creating laugh-out-loud humor. Even if you’ve never thought about cycling along Paris streets, or through the countryside outside Bruges, or up Tour de France level gradients in La Paz, this book will show you how and inspire you to do so – or at least to explore your own neighborhood on a bicycle. The book exhibits a deep understanding of the causes of (and solutions to) the world’s and our own personal challenges. Old Man on a Green Bike will make a great gift for anyone searching for adventure, or an engaging, motivating and thought-provoking read.” (Dr Paul Tranter, School of Physical, Environmental and Mathematical Sciences, UNSW Canberra, Australian Defense Force Academy, author of Active Travel: A Cure for the Hurry Virus.)
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