April 11, 2016

We Don't Do Bicycles Here, Or Trains, Or Buses

Bicycle use is high in China.

I live in North America - the land of the personal motor vehicle. Here, the car is king. Train travel was never that good, but now it is basically non-existent. No trains, and our inter-provincial bus service, after sucking for decades, is also disappearing.

People don't really ride bicycles either, and public transportation has always been seen as something for people who can't afford a car, or who are too old to drive.

Car ownership is one of our only rites of passage as we enter adulthood. That and drinking. What could go wrong? Lots, it turns out.

It is a total waste. We have put all our efforts into the least efficient, most expensive, and most dangerous mode of transportation. But that shiny, new car sure does look good in the driveway, and you can't really be successful without one, can you?

You can.

Just about anywhere I have traveled in the world I have been envious of all the transportation alternatives available to successful people. Trolly cars, frequent affordable train service, buses like I have never seen before, dolmushes, extensive underground metro systems, tuk tuks, scooters, and motorcycles all figure heavily in the transportation mix.

And bicycles. Lots and lots of bicycles.

"Based on our new database, it is estimated that in 2015 bicycles account for about 6 percent of urban trips worldwide. However, more than half of documented cycling trips occur in China, Japan, and a few European countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark.  
In the United States and Canada urban cycling is estimated to account for only about1 percent of trips." - source

If you are addicted to cars, you are missing out. Riding a bike, besides being crazy fun, has many advantages. It uses less energy, produces less harmful emissions, and is less expensive than driving.

"Cycling is associated with higher rates of physical activity, reduced air pollution, lower traffic congestion, and calmer urban traffic that can reduce road-crash-related fatalities and injuries. 
Cycling can have a substantial positive impact on the world’s future, saving US$24 trillion dollars over the next thirty-five years and dramatically improving quality of life for the world’s rapidly urbanizing population."

It has been shown that when public policy and infrastructure support bicycle use, people will increasingly choose this sustainable, health-enhancing mode of travel. We should be pushing for more bike-friendly conditions to encourage cycling.

Do it for your health. Do it for your bank account. Do it for the environment. Do it for fun. Do it because it is often faster than driving short distances. What ever the reason, park that car and ride a bike today.

Next we can start working on our train and bus networks.






3 comments:

  1. Wonderful! We just bought bikes and love them! We have a great trail system in Fort Worth, so are able to hop on (we live on the trail) and ride just about anywhere in the city, car-free. When we do need to use the roads, we do so carefully and at non-peak times. We didn't start a car once yesterday and logged about 20 miles being out-and-about. You are right - it IS fun, and healthy, for our bodies and the air. I hope more and more of us choose bicycles for some or all of our transportation needs.

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    Replies
    1. Alright! Congratulations on your new bikes. How exciting for you to have access to a trail system right from home. My favourite biking moments are riding right past gas stations, and not starting my vehicle for days at a time. You are on your way to adapting to the transportation method of the future. Thanks for sharing your positive transition.

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  2. I am very lucky to live a little over 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) from my job. I walk to work often – my goal is to walk three days a week, and four days if the weather isn’t awful or I don’t have an appointment right after work. But I rarely walk to work on Friday. Why? That day I work later into the afternoon – usually my quitting time is 3pm, on Friday it is 4pm. The amount of traffic I have to deal with crossing the streets to my neighborhood is so increased on Friday at 4pm, and people are so much crazier at driving then, that I have decided that it is not safe for me to walk during that time.

    In your post you say that it has been shown that if the policy and infrastructure is there to support bicycle use (which I assume would mean good walking infrastructure too), that people would increasingly choose this mode of travel.

    My response, based on several years’ experience of walking to work, is that this may not be true. What I have figured out is that people in the US, or at least in my city in Western Oregon, like to live in a “walkable, bicycle friendly” neighborhood, but that does not mean they want to walk/bike themselves, and that they do not like to have to change their driving habits to accommodate a walker/biker such as wait for me to safely cross the street or look carefully in their car mirrors before turning to make sure a bicycle isn’t in the bike lane. Many people in those neighborhoods still get in their car to drive that mile to the store or the office, and walkers and bikers should stay out of their way.

    My apologies that this comes off as a negative comment. I enjoyed the comment from Erin in Fort Worth and her positive experience with bicycling. And I do think that even if 1% of our trips are on feet or bikes – that is a good thing. But also, as you say, the automobile is so entrenched in North American culture that it is difficult to change. Thanks for letting me have my say.

    - Mary

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