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Bicycles Pedaling Into the Spotlight - Earth Policy Institute

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  • Christopher Miller
    From the Earth Policy Institute, a May 12 article on increasing bicycle production and use worldwide: http://www.earthpolicy.org/Indicators/Bike/2008.htm
    Message 1 of 1 , May 27, 2008
      From the Earth Policy Institute, a May 12 article on increasing
      bicycle production and use worldwide:

      http://www.earthpolicy.org/Indicators/Bike/2008.htm

      ===================================================

      Copyright � 2008 Earth Policy Institute

      May 12, 2008

      Bicycles Pedaling Into the Spotlight

      J. Matthew Roney

      The world produced an estimated 130 million bicycles in 2007�more than
      twice the 52 million cars produced. Bicycle and car production tracked
      each other closely in the mid-to-late 1960s, but bike output separated
      sharply from that of cars in 1970, beginning its steep climb to 105
      million in 1988. Following a slowdown between 1989 and 2001, bike
      production has regained steam, increasing in each of the last six
      years. Much of the recent growth has been driven by the rise in
      electric, or �e-bike� production, which has doubled since 2004 to 21
      million units in 2007. Overall, since 1970, bicycle output has nearly
      quadrupled, while car production has roughly doubled.


      Promoting the bike as a clean and efficient alternative to the
      personal automobile is a practical way for cities to reduce traffic
      congestion and smog. To simultaneously confront those problems as well
      as climate change and an emerging obesity epidemic, government leaders
      and advocacy groups are working to bring cycling back to prominence in
      the urban transport mix.

      A number of European cities have set the standard for bicycle use and
      promotion, via pro-bike transportation and land use policies, as well
      as heavy funding for bicycle infrastructure and public education. In
      Copenhagen, for example, 36 percent of commuters bike to work. The
      city plans to invest more than $200 million in bike facilities between
      2006 and 2024 and estimates that by 2015 half its residents will bike
      to work or school. In Amsterdam, cycling accounts for 55 percent of
      journeys to jobs that are less than 7.5 kilometers (4.7 miles) from
      home. The government has pledged to spend $160 million from 2006 to
      2010 on bicycle paths, parking, and safety. And Freiburg, Germany, a
      city with 218,000 people, has allocated roughly $1.3 million annually
      for cycling since 1976; now some 70 percent of local trips there are
      made by bike, on foot, or by public transit.

      Governments elsewhere are following Europe�s lead. Bogot�, Colombia,
      boasts more than 300 kilometers of bikeways, the most for a city in
      the developing world. In Australia, the state of Victoria has amended
      planning laws to require all new large buildings to provide bike
      parking and other facilities such as showers and lockers. And in
      November 2007, South Korea�s Home Affairs Ministry announced a new pro-
      bike campaign to alleviate increasing traffic and air pollution and to
      cope with soaring oil prices. As it expands bicycle infrastructure,
      the government aims to substantially increase bike ownership by 2015,
      from one bike for every seven citizens to one for every four.

      Some notoriously polluted and congested cities are working to reap the
      benefits of cycling as well. Mexico City plans to have 5 percent of
      all trips be by bike in 2012, up from less than 2 percent today, using
      traffic calming methods, promotional campaigns, and bike-transit
      connectivity. In India, Delhi�s newest Master Plan requires fully
      segregated bicycle tracks on all arterial roads and notes that
      promoting cycling will be an essential component of the city�s plans
      to reduce growth in fossil fuel consumption. (See additional examples
      of bicycle promotion initiatives.)

      Bicycle rental programs are also increasing bike use in some cities.
      The stand-out example of 2007 was Paris�s low-cost V�lib rental
      scheme, launched in July. Now offering 20,600 bikes that can be
      obtained by credit card at 1,451 stations, the program logged 6
      million rides in its first three months. Analysts expect the program
      to double or even triple bike trips in Paris. Similar programs exist
      in Oslo, Barcelona, and Brussels and are planned for Washington, D.C.,
      and central London, among other cities.

      While biking remains popular for recreation in the United States, it
      is woefully underused for transportation. Total cycling participation
      has declined nationally since 1960, dropping 32 percent since the
      early 1990s, and now accounts for just 0.9 percent of all trips.
      Cycling to work is even less frequent, at 0.4 percent of trips.

      Despite these unimpressive statistics, encouraging signs can be seen
      for the future of cycling in the United States. Aided by $900 million
      a year in federal funding for promotion of biking and walking for 2005
      to 2009, the installation of bicycle facilities�including parking,
      bike-friendly roads, and designated lanes�is proceeding at a record
      pace. Indeed, plans in the 50 largest U.S. cities would, on average,
      double their bicycle and pedestrian routes; New York City alone will
      quadruple its bike network to 2,900 kilometers by 2030.

      Bicycle advocacy in the United States continues to grow as well. The
      League of American Bicyclists now honors 84 U.S. towns and cities as
      Bicycle Friendly Communities, compared with 52 in 2005. Cycling
      advocacy groups operate in 49 states and Washington, D.C. Perhaps most
      exciting, a Complete Streets movement has blossomed in recent years,
      in which a broad coalition of citizen and environmental groups is
      calling for safer, pedestrian- and cyclist-friendly roads designed for
      everyone, not just cars. Six states and more than 50 cities, counties,
      and metro regions have now enacted some form of Complete Streets
      legislation. For example, the Illinois General Assembly voted last
      October to require all new state transportation construction projects
      in and around urban areas to include bicycle and pedestrian ways.

      While the bicycle is still an essential form of transportation in
      China, the country has recently seen a rapid decrease in bike
      ownership as its population becomes wealthier and turns to cars. From
      1995 to 2005, China�s bike fleet declined by 35 percent, from 670
      million to 435 million, while private car ownership more than doubled,
      from 4.2 million to 8.9 million. Blaming cyclists for increasing
      accidents and congestion, some city governments have closed bike
      lanes. Shanghai even banned bicycles from certain downtown roads in
      2004. This deterioration in Chinese bike culture emerges even as the
      country�s share of world bicycle production continues to rise: China
      now turns out more than four fifths of the 130 million bikes produced
      each year.

      China�s central government, increasingly concerned about traffic
      congestion, energy consumption, and people�s health, has now begun
      calling on cities to reverse this discouragement of bikes. In June
      2006, Deputy Minister of Construction Qiu Baoxing ordered cities that
      had narrowed or removed bike lanes to restore them. Within Beijing,
      bike promotion is having some visible effects as the city prepares for
      the 2008 Olympics. For example, after successful pilot projects, a
      private bike rental scheme co-sponsored by Beijing�s environmental
      protection and security bureaus aims to provide 50,000 bikes at some
      200 locations by August. Thus far, however, the recent pro-bicycle
      rhetoric from Beijing has not translated into much positive action
      outside the capital.

      Development projects addressing disease and poverty in Africa provide
      evidence that the bicycle�s utility is not just limited to urban
      areas. In Zambia, World Bicycle Relief has partnered with a coalition
      of relief organizations to combat HIV/AIDS through more timely
      education and treatment, providing 23,000 bicycles to healthcare
      volunteers, disease prevention educators, and families affected by the
      virus. In Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Uganda, an alliance of Dutch non-
      governmental organizations has launched a micro-credit lending program
      called Cycling Out of Poverty. Through this effort, poor people can
      pay off leased bikes while using them to attend school or start a
      small business.

      With more than half the world�s population now living in cities, there
      is tremendous potential for municipal governments and urban planners
      to increase bicycle use by following classic European examples like
      Copenhagen and Amsterdam. These cities have shown that by integrating
      bicycles in transportation planning, educating the public about
      cycling�s benefits, and discouraging driving with restrictions and
      taxes on car ownership and parking, governments can greatly enhance
      bicycle use. This promotes people�s physical fitness while helping to
      create cleaner, more livable communities.


      ADDITIONAL DATA

      World Bicycle and Automobile Production, 1950-2007 (figure and table)

      Selected Cycling-Promotion Initiatives from around the World, 2008
      (table)

      Bicycle Production by Top Countries, 1990-2007 (table)



      To return to the Index of Eco-Economy Indicators, click here.
      For more information related to BICYCLES and TRANSPORTATION from Earth
      Policy Institute, click here.

      Copyright � 2008 Earth Policy Institute
      ===================================================


      Christopher Miller
      Montreal QC Canada



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