The Dutch know this very well: soft mobility is the smartest choice inside and outside cities. No traffic congestions, no noisy and polluted cities, no parking problems. These are just some of the many benefits of urban cycling. On the contrary, in some European cities, traffic is still a huge problem, with high levels of air pollution and, of no less importance, noise pollution. In some of these cities people feel the need to own a car, or more cars, because there are no alternatives. But cities full of cars are something we inherited from the past century and the environmental crisis we are going through suggests we should change this habit.
By Milena Parotti / 10.07.2019
A bike is the fastest and cheapest mode of transport between 1 and 5 km, which make up most of our urban trips. With an electric bike it’s even possible to travel for 30km, making longer commutes possible by bike. Moreover, when more streets are reserved for pedestrians and bikes, or when more streets impose a limit of 30 km/h, there is much less chance of car accidents. This way cities are safer for everyone, especially children and the elderly.
It goes without saying, cycling is also good for weight issues and heart diseases. Urban cycling is not a professional sport, but a little bit of exercise, even if slow and short, is always good for physical health. Our mental health is also affected by trafficked roads, especially for those who live close to noisy roads. Commuting by bike is not just fun and healthy, but it’s also the perfect way to relax after a stressful day at work, for example.
Last but not least, cycling is inclusive. What does this mean? First of all, society is stratified in a way that some people do not get the chance to own a car. When we build cities with poor public transport and non-existent or unsafe bike lanes, we are excluding part of our society from activities that should be a right for everyone: going to school, going to the supermarket, going to work, going to the doctor, etc. Moreover, cycling gives children and teens the independency they need, and the same can be applied to the elderly and to people with disabilities, especially if we consider the role of electric bikes, tricycles, and handbikes.
A city built for people and not for cars is less noisy, more peaceful, and just a lot more pleasant to live in. In order to improve our cities, we need changes on multiple levels: careful infrastructure planning, investments on public transportation, measures to discourage the use of private cars, and most of all a mentality change. If we keep considering cycling as a recreational activity and not as a means of transportation, then we will never see real changes. Cars are not irreplaceable: as many Nordic European cities teach us, it’s perfectly possible to bike in winter, on rainy and snowy days, with children, and with grocery bags.
So what are we waiting for?