Can We Rethink Our Cities Around Cycling?
Institute for Transportation & Development Policy offers its opinion on the occasion of World Bicycle Day on June 03.
How has the current pandemic forced us to re-think urban transport?
After experiencing a year like no other, which exposed so many fault lines and illuminated new urban mobility challenges, cycling has resurfaced as a particularly resilient and equitable transportation solution. New cycling lanes brought new cyclists to the streets in droves.
In cities where bike infrastructure was added early in the pandemic, cycling increased up to 48 percent more than in other cities. The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent growth of cycling has left cities around the world facing a critical question: can we radically rethink our cities around cycling or will we allow cars to retake the streets?
In India, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, cycling saw a huge surge. Due to lockdown restrictions, many public transport users were severely affected; cycling served as a personal and COVID-safe alternative for short and medium distance trips.
Through the India Cycles4Change Challenge, launched by the Government of India, over 100 cities are leading the change by testing, learning and scaling up ideas to promote cycling. They have collectively initiated work on around 400 kms of arterial and 3500 kms of neighbourhood streets.
How imperative it is to move away from car dominated city design?
For years, cities were designed under the assumption that investments in cycling were only worth pursuing if there were already cyclists, giving way to decades of car dominance and environmental degradation. But recently, cities across the world have demonstrated how quickly cycling-centered measures can transform city streets and attract new cyclists. And the benefits of riding a bike instead of driving a car are stark: research shows that choosing a bike over a car just once a day reduces an average citizen’s carbon emissions from transport by 67%.
It is clear that implementing safe and protected bike lanes creates new cyclists and has positive impacts on our health, the environment, air quality, road safety and accessibility. But if we fail to scale this cycling resurgence and ensure that temporary cycling interventions are made permanent, the needs of people will continue to come second to cars.