How to save the world by bicycle

I have a solution for all of society’s ills. It involves getting fat arses out of cars and onto bicycles.

If I were Prime Minister, I’d redirect our colossal spending on roads and motorways to spending on cycling infrastructure instead. When I say cycling infrastructure, I don’t mean painted lines on roads or share-and-care footpaths, but rather, proper, separated cycle paths, Copenhagen-style. These cycle paths would not be shared with cars or pedestrians but instead be for the sole use of cyclists. I expect there’d even be money left over for other things like health and education, such is the huge amount we spend on cars and maintaining the fat arses in our community.

How will this solve all our problems you ask?

* OBESITY – Inactivity makes you fat. Cycling reduces inactivity and aids weight-loss.

* TRAFFIC – Replacing trips by car with trips by bicycle reduces traffic. It may even eliminate it altogether.

* POLLUTION – Cars emit hazardous gases which once released, can be inhaled and delivered to each of our internal organs. These gases include: carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, suphur dioxide, benzene, formaldehyde, polycyclic hydrocarbons and lead. Cycling is emission-free.

* CURRENT ACCOUNT DEFICIT – New Zealand has not seen a current account surplus since 1973. For the September 2012 year, the deficit was $9.9 billion, an increase of over $1billion from the previous year. This was largely due to cars and oil. Replacing trips by car with trips by bike reduces our dependence on foreign oil.

* GLOBAL WARMING – Cars emit greenhouse gases which are a contributing factor in global warming. Cycling does not emit any greenhouse gases.

* MENTAL HEALTH – Cycling has been shown to improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and alleviate depression. Sitting in a car does none of these.

* HEALTH – Inactivity is reportedly responsible for more deaths than is smoking. Cycling is healthful physical activity.

* ECONOMY – The city of Sydney commissioned independent economic research to quantify the benefits of cycling infrastructure. They found that for every $1 spent, $3.88 was returned to the community.

* POVERTY – The last time I looked, the cost of petrol in New Zealand was $2.08 per litre for octane 91. Cycling is free. People who replace car trips with cycle trips will have the money they would have otherwise spent on petrol available to spend on other things.

*JOBS – Investing in cycling infrastructure will create jobs associated with the building of that infrastructure as well as boosting business in the area of sale and repair of bicycles and all the associated bicycle paraphernalia – helmets, lights, cargo carriers, panniers, baskets etc.

Sound a little too simplistic? I encourage you to read the research and debunk my suggestion. I welcome the debate because from where I’m sitting, it looks like a no-brainer.

6 responses to “How to save the world by bicycle”

  1. Agree with your argument for promotion and encouragement of the bicycle as preferred method of transport, on all the points you canvass. I do have a bike, but, I live in a regional town and must use my car to travel to the city to shop, visit family/friends/entertainment etc. I can and do use the country rail service for some of these activities. I regularly fly interstate to be with family and friends of course. Due to my age, there are some activities which would be more difficult for me to attend to on my bike, like grocery shopping which tends to make the effort somewhat more onerous if not impossible. It is freezing cold in winter and cycling is most difficult into the chilly wind….. these are just excuses of course.

    Another issue would be in regard to family activities. eg. shuttling young children to and from school and daycare, to musi lessons,, dance tuition, marshal arts class, after school activities et al. One child of a family may be able to be accommodated, but what about the additional newborn or multiples of little ones? Remember the”Tarago” days?

    Australia is different to NZ in many ways because of the huge size of this country and the large population scattered around the coastline. The cities have grown and sprawled their way further and further until so spread out, even a bicycle “road” network would be expensive to construct and maintain, and unwieldy to utilise. Cities such as Copenhagen and others in Europe and Asia are much more densely populated and in tiered accommodation, allowing much more easily, the movement of people to and from home and work and activities. In Melbourne for example, it is quite dangerous to cycle, despite exclusive bicycle lanes, safe parking of bicycle units, driver education , cyclist education and local promotion of the benefits (many of which you have mentioned). There is a hostility from both camps, unlike in Europe, where bikes and scooters, and small and large vehicles have worked out how to coexist. Melbourne’s euro-style cheap “rent-a-bike” system in the city is a flop and a failure. Also the use of the bike trailers in traffic is terrifying.and not much safer than “dinking”.

    One other worrying trend is that parents are not prepared to allow their children to walk or ride to school. Apart from the possibility of accidents crossing the road, personal safety is a growing concern. Many children have to go to school early to allow parents to get to their workplace, and a parent would be naturally concerned about a child’s safe arrival if they were cycling or walking.under their own steam.

    We need to keep working on these ideas Rachel. There needs to be a more holistic solution perhaps. Of course, if nothing is done, choice is lost and outcomes dictate the imperative.

    1. There is a bike version of the people mover – I have been wanting one for years.

      I agree that the urban sprawl of Australia and New Zealand does create new challenges. Not insurmountable ones though.

      Thanks for your comments!

  2. Editing incomplete of the above post. Sorry… but sure you know what I mean eg marshal as opposed to martial etc. embarassed..

    1. Hadn’t even noticed.

  3. […] couple of weeks ago I made a blog post about how to save the world by bicycle.  I’m quite passionate about this  topic and really wanted to spread my thoughts and […]

  4. […] good cycling infrastructure for the society at large. I’ve written about this before in How to save the world by bicycle but I’ll just recap on the some of the main points again here. Cycling keeps you healthy. A […]

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