Let’s imagine perfect communication in the city. Probably many people have before their eyes the paths along which many corporate employees, teachers and doctors travel on mechanical two-wheelers. Cycling is definitely an ecological and healthy way of getting around the metropolis. But is it likely to develop on a large scale in those regions that have previously relied on internal combustion engines?
The bicycle is an essential element of the new mobility
21 grams. This is the amount of carbon dioxide per kilometer of ride a cyclist emits during his daily ride. This is less than a tenth of a passenger car’s emissivity. It is worth considering that the daily decision to drive a car instead of getting on a bicycle is ten times more harmful to the environment and to the condition of air.
Bicycles are the future, because they fit into the assumptions relating to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. In addition to intelligent buses, electric cars and other solutions in the field of new mobility, they give hope that in the future it will be possible to stop the global increase in temperature. So it is definitely worth investing in them at the micro and macro level.
Buying bikes: micro level
In fact, many city dwellers either own or will have a bicycle. It is a relatively small expense, low operating cost, but it can be used for many years.
The pandemic and the lockdown convinced those who were just considering buying a two-wheeler. The US Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in the pandemic year 2020, US citizens spent $ 7 billion on bicycles and accessories for them, an increase of $ 0.9 billion compared to the previous year. Importantly, this trend continued several months later (USD 8.3 billion in Q2 2021).
After unlocking the economy, the trend subsided somewhat, but with an annual $ 7.5 billion, it’s still a higher percentage of the bikes spending compared to pre-pandemic time.
Solutions for promoting cycling: macro level
It is obvious that the user is responsible for purchasing a bike or paying for it. On the other hand, people responsible for managing the city’s infrastructure have the opportunity to develop solutions that will encourage people to change to a two-wheeler.
Example? Establishing cooperation with startups offering bicycle rental services using the application. In this way, it is possible to create a network of city bikes with stations located in the most sensitive locations. City bike sharing solutions already exist in countries such as China, Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland and the UK.
Another thing is the skilful adaptation of the road infrastructure to the needs of cyclists. For example by creating special protected bike lanes. Why is it so important? Because in this way the level of safety of cyclists is improved when they move along busy streets. In New York, for example, the rate improved by 40-50 percent compared to the period before the lanes were created. In Montreal, it improved by 28 percent.
Such initiatives also contribute to promoting cycling as a way of getting to the workplace. This has been reported, for example, in Washington, DC, which is famous for its large networks of extensive protected bike lanes.
Denmark and the Netherlands as a model
Copenhagen and Amsterdam have been the leaders in the rankings of “bike friendly” cities for many years. But why do other countries not follow the model successfully implemented by these cities for cycling around the city? This is one of the most interesting questions that arise when discussing new mobility.
It’s hard not to see the capital of Denmark or the Netherlands as ideal examples of cities that understand urban mobility and constantly improve it. In the case of the Scandinavian country, this is done even despite the geographic location, which is rich in frosts and heavy snowfall. About 70% of metropolitan residents commute to work by bicycle, even in winter. In contrast, in Amsterdam, 68% of traffic to and from work or school is by bike, and bicycles account for 36% of all traffic in the city.
Why is a similar approach difficult to find in countries such as Poland, Germany or even the USA? Let us try to reflect on this.
What is needed to increase the popularity of cycling?
There are at least a few factors worth considering in the context of mobility management on two wheels.
1. The need to deal with difficult decisions at high levels
For decades, cities have been built in the spirit of car-centricism. The opposite action, such as attempts to expand the bicycle infrastructure, interfering with car traffic and taking away their space in the city, always arouses anger and resistance. Making bold decisions by city authorities to switch to traffic giving a high priority to combining various means of transport with an emphasis on cycling is the first important step, initiating permanent changes in the awareness of city designers and authorities and their residents. Without it, creating a coherent urban mobility project is impossible.
2. The decision to shift towards bicycles is one thing, but effective enforcement is another.
To implement this strategy, long-term thinking of the city’s authorities over the decades is required, regardless of political and economic conditions (I will only mention a simple relationship – suffice it to mention that the more inhabitants on bikes, the greater the profit for the city, which has been calculated). An effective city cycling strategy is the so-called cathedral project; a masterplan developed over decades, beyond divisions, planned for many generations, not subject to discussion. Copenhagen has nearly 100 years of experience in creating urban cycling infrastructure focused on comfort and usability for its users. Likewise, in Amsterdam, the process took decades, not years.
3. Infrastructure is the basis – let’s build an appropriate, i.e. effective, safe and well-thought-out network of bicycle routes, and people will start using it.
The car’s argument is convincing until we are able to show the residents how much faster it is to get from A to B by bike. Public transport is an equally important alternative, but in this case we remove the factor of positive impact on health from the equation. And this guarantees travel by bike, which is an undeniable advantage of this type of mobility
4. “Here, there is no such culture as in Denmark or the Netherlands” – it is certainly exceptionally strong there, although it really flourished decades ago.
Culture can be created, and the bicycle is such a universal tool that it can be used on a mass scale among the inhabitants of almost every latitude. It is worth knowing that in the 1960s Amsterdam was “addicted” to passenger cars. There was a need for a change of approach, as it is described in, for example, THIS article.
What will the future of cycling mobility look like in cities?
The factors for the development of cycling mobility in cities described above will certainly shape the future in the coming years and decades. The answer to the question whether cycling is something desirable is absolutely positive.
The only open question is how to motivate people to switch completely to their own or shared two-wheeler. And here, city and regional decision-makers, as well as institutions dealing with the creation of bicycle-friendly law (which can be clearly seen in the USA and local lanes), have the most say.
When it comes to the market reality, one of the more interesting trends for the future is surely the electric bike fleet, which is gaining ground. They make it possible to travel on longer routes and even in demanding conditions. The data shows that by the end of 2030, the value of the global electric bicycle industry is expected to grow to nearly $ 41 billion. Asia is still the world’s largest e-bike market, with tens of millions of e-bikes sold each year. On the other hand, even in the European market that is lagging behind in this respect, sales of electric bicycles are expected to exceed sales of cars (electric and gasoline-powered) by 2025.