The bicycle is not new. As a technology, it has helped people travel more quickly, efficiently and for longer distances for over 200 years. However, the rise of private motor vehicles in the 20th century saw the bicycle rapidly turn into a technology of leisure – something to be enjoyed on holidays or during one’s youth, not as a daily mode of transport. But now, the tide is turning once again, and we’re beginning to see this trend change for the better.
Today, Friday 3 June, is World Bicycle Day, and to celebrate the occasion the European Cyclists’ Federation is hosting a webinar convening numerous cycling and sustainable mobility advocates from around the world.
We have been celebrating this day every year since the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution in 2018 to annually commemorate the bicycle. Now, governments and individuals across the globe are finally starting to reflect on how our chosen modes of transport are affecting the planet, our societies and the places where we live.
In light of this newfound enthusiasm for cycling, this year’s World Bicycle Day feel particularly momentous. So don’t miss out, register for our webinar now!
1. Creating a more liveable planet
Our long-held desire to create new transport technologies to take us faster and farther – regardless of the costs to our environment, climate, societies and our health – has caught up with us. Pressures on our planet from the climate crisis, particularly those created by our dependence on fossil fuels and motorised transport, are now inducing a widespread demand for effective transport alternatives. One of the most effective of these is the bicycle – and the science is there to back it up.
Cycling has been proven again and again to be one of the most environmentally friendly modes of transport available. The IPCC Sixth Assessment Working Group III Report released in April recognised that fundamental changes to transport systems, and the demand-side options they provide, can have a major role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to the authors, “Demand-side options and low greenhouse gas emissions technologies can reduce transport sector emissions in developed countries and limit emissions growth in developing countries,” and that “investments in public inter- and intra-city transport and active transport infrastructure [such as bike and pedestrian pathways] can further support the shift to less GHG-intensive transport modes.”
Importantly, the report’s authors made a clear case for prioritising car-free mobility by walking and cycling as a way to significantly save on emissions, writing that “meeting climate mitigation goals would require transformative changes in the transport sector” with, among other actions, “the provision of less car-dependent transport infrastructure.”
These assertions mean that cycling has the potential to become as transformative as ever for our planet in the years to come, and public authorities across the planet need to see the bicycle as a way to solve numerous societal and economic problems and challenges.
2. Creating more liveable cities
The bicycle has an enormous potential to improve our lives individually and collectively. Getting more people to cycle, and swap their car journeys for bike journeys, leads to cleaner air – and this is not a minor point.
In fact, the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health just updated its findings to show that pollution is responsible for approximately nine million deaths per year, which is one in sixth deaths worldwide. The Lancet commission also found that deaths from modern pollution risk factors, “which are the unintended consequence of industrialization and urbanization,” have risen by 7% since 2015 and 66% since 2000.
Transport pollution is a significant contributor to these deaths. Exhaust-pipe emissions account for up to 30% of fine particulate matter in urban areas. Motorised transport is the largest source of nitrogen dioxide and benzene emissions in cities.
Another major effect of more cycling in cities is the improvement in road safety. The implementation of 30 km/h speed limits in various cities across Europe is slowing down motor vehicle traffic and leading to big reductions in road deaths. One great example is Brussels, where there has been a 50% reduction in road fatalities since the implementation of 30 km/h speed limits. These practices open opportunities for people to cycle, because one of the main barriers for people to cycle is their perceived threat of danger on the roadways.
3. Creating a more liveable future
Ultimately, the places where we live have been over-designed for motorised vehicles. Thus, it is no wonder that most people drive as the dense and predictable road network makes it very convenient to do so.
This needs to change. Politicians, policymakers, urban planners, academics and civil society advocates need to plan for a redesign of cities that make active and sustainable modes of travel – walking, cycling, public transport – the easiest and thus most preferential option for inhabitants.
Doing this will lead to a more equitable system of mobility for everyone, a system in which the bicycle plays a leading role. It will lead to a future where people will not be forced to acquire expensive motor vehicles to move around – a future in which people can walk or cycle to local shops, schools and workplaces without fear of being hit by drivers of larger vehicles.
It will be a future in which people reclaim the streets for play, social gatherings, for business, for mobility, and for all the activities that form the web of vibrant communities.
Join us today, Friday 3 June for the ECF World Bicycle Day webinar, where we will discuss further with high-level cycling advocates from around the world how the bicycle will shape our cities, planet and future. Registrations available here.