By upyernoz from Haverford, USA (Snow Biker Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Today we have a guest contributor, Zoe Clark, who will highlight some cities that are developing solid bicycling systems from around the world. My own current city, Montreal, has the Bixi Program, which is modeled after Paris’ bike sharing program, vel-lib
. Despite Montreal’s biking efforts, it slipped in the Copenhagenize Index
in the past year plunging from 13 to 20. In 2011, Montreal was ranked 8th in the world for cycling (a cycling-friendly city is defined by the number of dedicated bike paths it has). The drop in ranking could be as much about other cities pulling ahead while Montreal remains stagnant in its bike path development given its current focus on restructuring its highway system. If you’re not familiar with Copenhagenize, it is a great blog that discusses ways to help transform cities into more bikeable areas. As the blog notes:
40 years ago Copenhagen was just as car-clogged as anywhere else but now 45% of the population arriving at work or education do so on bicycles, from all over the Metro area. 63% of Copenhageners themselves use bicycles each day.
It’s nice to know that turning a city into a bikeable area is possible even in northern climates like our own.
Zoe highlights several cities where biking is getting the priority it deserves given its health benefits for ourselves and the planet.
As you probably know already, biking is an excellent way to lose weight, keep your health in check and save money on fuel, maintenance and parking fees. Bikes are also one of the cleanest and greenest modes of transport, which is why environmentalists advocate the use of pedal-powered two-wheelers in place of cars and buses. And their plea has been heard – and upheld, too: a number of cities across the globe are encouraging the use of bicycles and providing incentives for bike-oriented infrastructure projects in view of making human settlements safer, more resilient and sustainable in the long run. Let’s take a quick peek at a few examples of urban solutions centered on the promotion of active transport.
Manchester authorities have launched a project to create a specialized bike port in Salford, which will allow cyclists to park their rides safely and make use of several other cool features on a 24/7 basis. The port will be built in the vicinity of MediaCityUK using shipping containers as another green asset of sustainable settlements. The hub will be able to accommodate up to 300 bikes and it will also feature a few other convenient options for its users, such as shower rooms, toilets and changing rooms with lockers. Sounds too green to be true? Check out all the green aspects of the Manchester bike park here.
Another example of green projects starring cycles is found in Bogota, Columbia. An activist think tank formed by young urbanists, La Ciudad Verde, has been working hard to encourage the local population to switch to bikes instead of cars for the daily commute. The group’s primary mission is to put the concept of green transport back on the city commuting agenda, and to this end, they have been identifying spots around the city where cycling lanes are not properly connected and painting the junction lines with the help of locals. Their efforts eventually caught the attention of local government which has offered to collaborate with La Ciudad in certain projects aimed at improving urban cycling conditions.
A few years ago, local authorities in Weiz, Austria, figured out that traffic congestions are for the most part cause by daily car commute. To help prevent traffic jams and reduce emission of harmful gases, the city government joined forces with the Active Travel Network project that gathers nine European cities looking to tackle the negative environmental impact of traffic, promote active transport and make their streets safer and more sustainable. Weiz government has since carried out several campaigns to promote clean transportation options, such as the two-month ‘Bike-to-work’ competition launched in 2007 which encourages employees to form two-member teams and use their bikes to commute as often as possible in return for stimulating rewards. Now that is what the concept of green life should be all about: fun, sustainability and teamwork.
Image Source: The Guardian https://i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Guardian/About/General/2009/8/20/1250767914080/Cycling-over-the-Queen-Lo-001.jpg?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10&s=0bf76999fd4c1e8719e52ec685e6ae8c
Porto Alegre, Brazil
Thanks to a project launched by the Cidade da Bicicleta initiative in 2010, Porto Alegre in Brazil got its first collective space designed for discussions concerning bike activism and green urban mobility. From 2010 to 2013, the initiative organized a community workshop on bike maintenance and repairs, and it also hosted a number of activist gatherings, film screenings, parties and lectures on the benefits of non-motorized transport. The group‘s efforts waned after 2013, only to see a revival a couple of years later with a campaign for the restoration of the community workshop. The initiative is currently calling for contributions via Brazil’s crowdfunding platform Catarse.
One more similar cycling-centered volunteer movement active throughout the country that is also being crowdfunded via online platforms, Bike Anjo, aims to teach people to bike, which routes to take and how to ensure maximum road safety. The group has also launched several campaigns such as Bike to Work Day and a series of training workshops. No wonder biking is on the rise in Brazil – if the efforts persist and green movements continue to multiply, Latin America may yet become a sustainable cycling haven.
In the era of growing pollution and petrol prices, as well as shrinking parking space, green activism promoting clean transport is a matter of consideration for each and every individual. If your city is plagued by frequent traffic congestions, heavy air pollution and high noise levels due to motorized traffic, perhaps it is time you did something about it. The best place to start the shift to green lifestyle is your own parking lot: ditch the car and opt for a bike. It will save you time, money and traffic hassle – and you may also be setting a positive model for others to follow. Every global change has local roots, and by going green transport-wise, you may in fact be planting the seeds for a wider-scale shift for a sustainable future.
Zoe Clark is an environmentalist, home decorator and DIY enthusiast from the Land Down Under. Her motto is: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”, and this is what fuels her passion to blog. You can find her on Twitter.