• parul sharma

Cycling to sustainability: Appreciating the bicycle on World Environment Day

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

The United Nations declared today, June 5th, as World Environment Day, whose mission is

..to push for individuals to think about the way they consume; for businesses to develop greener models; for farmers and manufacturers to produce more sustainably; for governments to invest in repairing the environment; for educators to inspire students to take action; and for youth to build a greener future.

This felt like a compelling enough occasion to reiterate my message of appreciation for the bicycle - the epitome of sustainable transport, and its many benefits in society, which I had shared a few days ago on World Bicycle Day, ie. 3rd June.

Think about the last time you were on a bicycle. Was it a few days, months, years or even decades ago? How did you feel? In 2018, the United Nations established June 3rd as World Environment Day. Most of us know the health benefits of cycling already – cycling improves muscle mass, creates a good cardio workout keeping the heart healthy and is an engaging form of exercise. Bikes are free to ride, brilliant for your physical and mental health and are usually a stress-free way to get to your destination. Not only is cycling an easy and low cost mode of transport with minimal-to-no recurring cost, it is also good for the environment with no greenhouse gas emission.


Additionally, bicycles can be easily accommodated and integrated at other public transportation nodes, like metro and bus stations, with minimal infrastructure. Bikes are free to ride, brilliant for your physical and mental health and are usually a stress-free way to get to your destination. Even before the dystopia of our COVID-19 pandemic, the bicycle was always a formidable mode of transportation, especially for short distances in most urban settings. During our current circumstances of the pandemic, it has proven to be one of the safest ways to travel, considering the solo ridership and the social distancing it offers from other road users.

Furthermore, in APAC countries like India, China and Japan, a huge portion of urban commuters cycle. In India itself, over 10% of all urban commuters cycle to work, according to the 2011 Census and, coupled with the growing number of recreational riders, this number is rapidly escalating. According to the BCG-Retailers Association of India report, the bicycle and e-bike market in India is expected to reach over USD 224 million by 2024. Why, then, are some people still hesitant to cycle? From a preliminary City Scanner Survey with more than 100 global respondents, over 80% indicated they would walk and cycle more if there was proper, well- connected infrastructure was in place, such as continuous, level, unobstructed, designated and protected tracks or lanes. In India, some other major deterrents which people face are:

  1. Encountering heavy traffic on the road

  2. Feeling unsafe due to lack of designated cycling infrastructure

  3. Poor general road etiquette including rash drivers and lack of respect for cyclists and other vulnerable road users by other road users

  4. Difficult topography such as a hilly terrain, making it inconvenient for cycling

  5. Pollution

  6. Lack of awareness or information about safe cycling routes

Image: Chandni Chowk, Express photo by Praveen Khanna We are fortunately living in a time where the bicycle is evolving and adapting to newer roles required of seamless modes of transportation by our ever-demanding lives today. Companies offering public bicycle- and e-bike-share, e-bike tourism and electric scooter delivery, including like Yulu, B:Live and startups like DeliverE, are addressing our growing needs for efficient, environmental and enjoyable commute, travel or delivery. They are also providing us with more and varied options in first/last last mile connectivity in cities and strengthening our urban connectivity. However, to truly become a cycling nation, India needs to improve some certain aspects of cycling experience, such as:

  • Improving awareness: public sensitisation of traffic etiquette, along with protection of cyclists' rights on the road.

  • Adding and improving safe and connected infrastructure: more and improved cycling and shared mobility infrastructure, along with protected crossings at junctions.

  • Comprehensive and connected bicycle masterplan for our cities, with significant contributions from regular cycling community representatives and Bicycle Mayors.

  • Well-placed and adequate cycle hubs for buying, repair and maintenance of cycles.

  • Improved signage and way-finding, including tech to provide up-to-date navigation assistance to cyclists.

  • Integrated approach to incorporate cycle plans in the masterplan, and create our public space plans in conjunction with strategies for shared mobility such bike (bicycle) share and e-bike share.

Image: Representational image of cyclists in Hauz Khas, New Delhi; Wikimedia Commons One thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us in India, however, is that the pedal bicycle and its younger cousin, the electric bike, have emerged as reliable and resilient modes of transport. So on this World Environment Day, let's aim to:

  • Respect cyclists on the road and sensitise ourselves, our families, friends and peers to the safety and rights of other vulnerable road users.

  • Create a safe and thriving community of cyclists. The more we show up as cyclists and build a cycling community, the more the need and demand for cycling infrastructure in our cities.

  • Ask for safe and connected cycling and pedestrian infrastructure from our government representatives.

  • Make an effort to cycle more, for our own physical and mental health and fun.


Whether you cycle as a professional cyclist, a commuter to work or school, or just for fun, it is always a good time to start - or re-start - riding a bicycle.


Image: Walkability Asia


 

Do you have opinions, experiences or aspirations about cycling in your city that you have to share? Please comment below. Visit www.cityscanner.net to learn how City Scanner is planning to tailor safe and enjoyable navigation and mobility experiences for this segment by putting the needs of these road users first.


About the author: Parul Sharma is the Founder and CEO of City Scanner. She has close to a decade of experience in urban development, mobility, architecture and placemaking in India and the US. Parul holds a Masters degree in Architecture and Urban Design from GSAPP, Columbia University and is the proud new adoptee of her cat, Allegra, who provides her with equal parts entertainment and allergies. #worldbicycleday #worldbicycleday2021 #sustainablemobility #mobility #urbanmobility #cycling #cycles #bicycle #bike #ebike #electricbike #EV #bicyclenetowork #bicyclemayor #transport #MaaS #smartcities #smartcity #smartcitiesindia #MoHUA #NIUA #TUMI #BYCS #bycsindia

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