While innovations in the automobile industry may grab headlines, the bicycle – which assumed its basic design by the 1880’s, is a historic form of transport with a very bright future. With virtually no carbon footprint, cycling is the most energy-efficient form of mechanized transportation. In terms of infrastructure, increased mobility, and energy consumption; surprising ideas for the people-powered movement are focused on positive environmental and individual health impacts. Not only do bicycles relieve pressure for new roads, parking lots, and road wear, they also greatly reduce water, air, and noise pollution. Considering that a four-mile bicycle trip keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe – creating quieter, healthier communities.
A new transport experiment is already underway across the world with bicycle highways spreading through the European Union, notably in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, and the UK. Entirely different from the narrow strips located on the sides of existing roadways, these car-free stretches allow cyclists to bypass city traffic safely and quickly, with zero automobile encounters and zero traffic lights. Occupying nearly 30 percent more space than ‘classic’ bike lanes, they feature free amenities like e-charging stations, public showers, and rental programs as well as other cyclists' needs like pumping stations.
With one important measure for a town’s livability being the ease of non-vehicular movement, numerous global cities are promoting cycling among commuters. For example, Norway plans to build a network of ten bicycle highways within its nine largest cities at an estimated cost of $923 million. People living in Copenhagen are welcoming the country’s first Cycle Super Highway that extends 22 kilometers from outside the city to its central urban core. Although the superhighway will cost around $1 million, officials believe that 15,000 people will ultimately switch from driving to biking – saving gas, reducing car congestion, and improving people's health for an estimated savings of $60 million to the health care system. Additionally, London and Berlin are each preparing to launch 12 new bicycle highways, and Sweden's transport authorities have approved a four-lane bike highway between Malmö and the nearby university town of Lund. When complete, these routes will supply a series of cities with 30 minute cycling trails, and for projects like Germany’s Radschnellwege, will prove effective in taking 54,000 cars off the road every day and reducing CO2 pollution by 17,000 tons every year.
Investing in two-wheeled transportation as a mode of mass transit provides a compelling new perspective to the way we get around and how we spend our money, as families and as a society. By creating a network of cycling, public transport, and flexible mobility, people will begin to prefer these alternatives. After all, if you build a good bike infrastructure network, people will use it – giving the rider a greater appreciation for the nuances of the natural and built environment while providing a therapeutic, stress reducing activity that leads to increased productivity.
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