Happy Friday! Here's a guest post about everyday cycling from John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, editors of City Cycling, which comes out this fall. For more info and updates about the book, be sure to visit City Cycling.
As every summer, millions of cycling enthusiasts worldwide are currently following the 99th Tour de France. In their race to the finish line on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, the Tour’s cyclist athletes ride 3,500 kilometers in 23 days, compete in fast-paced time trials, and traverse steep mountains in the Alps and the Pyrénées. The nearly 200 top-fit, professional cyclists use the latest technology of expensive light-weight bicycles, special thirst-quenching drinks, and aerodynamic helmets to gain the decisive advantage to win first place.
By comparison, every day millions of Americans, Canadians, Australians, and Europeans—most without any special training—ride their ordinary bicycles to work, school, the grocery store, to visit friends, and for leisure and recreation. While not nearly as glamorous as the Tour de France, everyday cycling in cities provides far greater individual and societal benefits. Daily, ordinary cycling contributes to physical activity and cardiovascular health, saves energy, improves environmental quality, reduces traffic congestion, and makes cities more livable, sustainable, and resilient. Most daily cyclists ride simple, inexpensive bikes, almost never wear special cycling outfits, and rarely use safety helmets. Except for the very young, the very old, and persons with severe disabilities, city cycling is potentially for almost everyone.
Over the past few decades, many cities in Europe, North America, and Australia have successfully promoted cycling as a practical, daily means of travel for everyone. The forthcoming book by The MIT Press City Cycling documents the worldwide trend toward more daily cycling and highlights successful policies that make cycling an attractive, feasible alternative to the car. City Cycling emphasizes that bicycling should not be limited to those who are highly trained, extremely fit, and daring enough to battle traffic on busy roads. The fifteen chapters of this book highlight the many government policies necessary to make cycling safe, convenient, and feasible for a broad range of social groups: women as well as men, all age groups, and a wide range of physical and mental abilities. The book examines in detail policies such as the provision of good cycling infrastructure (paths, lanes, parking), traffic calming of residential neighborhoods, car-free city centers, improved traffic education for motorists and cyclists, integration of cycling with public transit, bikesharing, and various informational and promotional programs. City Cycling also includes two chapters devoted to the specific needs of women and children, describing the measures that should be implemented to raise their cycling levels, in particular. Overall, the key message of the book is that it is indeed possible to dramatically increase cycling even in car-oriented countries like the USA. To do so, however, it is necessary to implement a coordinated, multi-faceted, mutually reinforcing set of policies, such as those explained in this book.