Sustainable transport: Are bicycles for the summer?
The urban population is growing constantly in the world. According to the World Bank, 54% of the planet’s inhabitants live in cities and the UN estimates that this figure will reach 66% by 2050. It is also calculated that in around 2030, forty-one cities will have exceeded the figure of ten million inhabitants. The challenges the 21st century places that the foot of these great agglomerations are diverse, and one of the most urgent is to find a balance between economic growth and the well-being of their citizens.
To do this, different actions have been considered that limit the use of motor traffic in the city centres and give more importance to citizens to the detriment of combustion vehicles. The municipal entities therefore try to palliate the negative effects of the use of cars with measures like closing off districts to residents, increasing the size of pavements and pedestrian areas, increasing taxes on more highly polluting vehicles, improving the public transport and enhancing the use of the bicycle as a sustainable means of transport with the construction of specific lanes for cyclists and public bicycle networks.
Why should you get around by bike?
Achieving sustainable mobility in cities through the use of the bicycle is but one of its advantages:
It is good for your health
Daily and continuous exercise improves your health and reduces the chance of suffering from cardiovascular disease. What’s more, getting round by bicycle, and especially on sunny days, allows the body to absorb the amount of vitamin D it needs. Another of the great points in favour of using the bicycle for your health is the amount of polluting emissions this avoids sending into the atmosphere, so it is beneficial both for you and for your community.
It is good for your pocket
It must also be said that getting round by bike also offers economic advantages not only for you, but also for the whole of society. A study by the European Cycling Federation maintains that the savings cycling achieves in the European Union amount to benefits of 513,000 million euros, or over 1,000 euros per citizen.
Travelling by bicycle saves time
The distances in large cities can be a disadvantage and a source of stress for citizens, who waste too much time going from one place to another caught up in traffic jams. Over distances of under ten kilometres, the bicycle stands out as the most efficient means of transport in relation to the time you take to do it.
Five pieces of advice to make your bike trip safe
For a correct use of bicycles, the Spanish Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT) traffic office issued a guide that cyclists should become acquainted with to travel around without danger to their safety or to that of the other citizens.
You have to respect the traffic signs
Remember that when you get on the bicycle, you are on a vehicle, so you have to pay attention to traffic signs and respect them as if you were in a car or on a motorcycle. In the city, cyclists must go in the lanes reserved for them and respect the walkers and the safety distances as well as not exceeding the permitted speed.
No alcohol or drugs
It is also strictly forbidden to use it after consuming alcohol or any other kind of forbidden substances, which reduce the reflexes and mean that you might cause an accident.
It is a good idea always to be seen
Over questions of visibility, the DGT says that bicycles must have white lights on the front and rear lights on the back as well as red reflectors. Traffic also recommends the use of reflective clothing.
Much better with a helmet and without mobile phones
The use of approved helmets is compulsory for the under 16s and recommendable for all other cyclists. The DGT also prohibits the use of mobile phones or musical devices.
Look after your bicycle
Another of the DGT’s recommendations is that you should park your bicycle in specific places, making it as difficult as possible for thieves to take it. You must also keep your bicycle in a suitable state for use.
Cities where you can enjoy your bicycle
The European cities are generally at the top of the lists of those best adapted to the use of bicycles. According to the Bicycle Barometer drawn up by the Network of Cities for Bicycles, the European capitals where there is greater use of this form of transport are:
The great example to follow in questions of sustainable mobility and compatibility between motor vehicles and bicycles is the Danish capital. This is considered the best city in the world for getting around by bicycle by the Copenhaguenize consultancy for different reasons, including the fact that 62% of its citizens now use this form of transport.
The Dutch capital is famous for its canals and nightlife, as well as for the bicycles tourists use when they visit it. 36% of its inhabitants use two wheels to get around in this perfectly adapted city. The cyclists of Amsterdam are generally very respectful of the rules and have few problems coexisting with the powered traffic.
If there is one city that promotes all trends, this is the capital of the United Kingdom. London was a pioneer in limiting vehicle access to the centre and its extensive underground, bus and tram network is used each day by millions of travellers. It has also embraced the use of the bicycle as urban transport with the creation of cycle lanes and the public bicycle service that is one of the most comfortable and cheapest ways to get to know this great city.
The layout of the Hungarian capital is an advantage for getting around by bike. Crossing the Danube by one of its magnificent bridges or exploring the historic centre of the city are just some of the appeals that Budapest offers cyclists, which account for 22% of the population, or tourists.
Sweden might not have the ideal climate for getting around on a bicycle, but its capital is perfect for doing so because of its citizens’ awareness of the need for sustainable transport. The city can be experienced on two wheels thanks to initiatives like these routes that allow cycling both in the urban centre and in the periphery.
Another of the Nordic cities that is worthy of mention is the Finnish capital. Like Stockholm or Copenhagen, Helsinki is one of the capitals best adapted to the use of bicycles, and in the summer its citizens resort to this form of transport. One of the points of greater interests for cyclists in the Finnish capital is the Keskuspuisto Park, a giant green lung ten kilometres long.
The capital of the European Union has undergone radical change since it has received a multitude of citizens from all over Europe to work in the offices of multinationals and the community institutions. To fight against traffic congestion and pollution, the use of bicycles is being promoted and the different councils have created a website with advice, routes and rental points to allow this interesting city to be seen by bike.
If Brussels has changed radically, Berlin is light-years ahead of the city it was almost 30 years ago. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Unification allowed large urban changes to be made in the German capital, in which the bicycle was benefited. As it is a flat city without large climbs, it is perfect for getting around by bike, and although the people of Berlin are accustomed to getting around on two wheels all year round, it is when the temperatures go up that it is really enjoyed.
Seville, Barcelona, Madrid and Bilbao
The Spanish climate means that there is a series of cities you can explore from end to end without getting off your bicycle. Furthermore, in recent years, the councils are promoting the use of this means of transport to reduce traffic congestion and the pollution in the urban centres. The creation of hundred kilometres of bicycle lanes, the closure of large commercial and residential areas to motor vehicles and the bicycle rental services are placing some of the Spanish cities amongst the best for getting around by bike. Take advantage!