Deloitte have recently published a study outlining the important role that bicycles will undertake in the future of urban transport. Predominantly, the role they will play will be in reducing traffic congestion, which may be worsened by self-driving cars, along with urban air quality and public health.
The study suggests that the number of people who will bike to work, by 2022, will have doubled. The caveat, of course, is that this is only referring to major cities around the world, not the world in its entirety.
The effects of having more bicycles on the roads (or designated paths), is there will be fewer cars. As it stands, most cars are still run on gasoline, so this could play a huge part in slowing down the negative developments of global warming. More specifically, it could clear up the air quality in urban areas and improve public health as a result.
The Coronavirus has been a great example of how societal can clear up the air in a very short period of time. Despite more cars being on the road as a result of lockdown measures easing up, putting bicycles into the mix wouldn’t contribute anything to air pollution.
We have to take into consideration, like Deloitte has in their study, that the population within these major cities are still rising. More congestion and people are expected to be sharing the same space, and bicycles take up much less of this space. They’re smaller than cars, they require smaller lanes, and they’re much more efficiently stacked when parking.
A huge concern over urban living is the obesity rates, particularly in the West. For example, over 70 million adults are obese in the US, which equates to around 39.6% according to the NHANES 2016 study.
The exercise that goes along with riding a bicycle to work is going to play a big role in cutting down obesity rates. More cultural changes are needed to completely address the issue, but it’s often reported that positive changes in transportation can lead to other positive changes in lifestyle, such as bringing your own lunch to work.
Breathing in smoke in urban areas is proven to be a contributing factor to asthma issues along with lung cancer. There is a possibility that electric bicycles will remove some of the physical activity benefit, but improving the air quality remains paramount to our health. Plus, many high-quality electric bicycles have the option of turning their electric assistance on and off, which gives users more control over their exercise.
If anyone has ever tried driving to work in London, they will realise that using a bicycle or public transports has a selfish motive, not an altruistic one (of course, in reality, it’s both). Some will find themselves paying £5 an hour for parking.
Many new offices are taking Dutch inspiration and building in designated bicycle parking spaces. These are tightly compact, often overlooked by security cameras, and cost nothing for the workers.
Some bicycles are designed to fold up too, meaning they can be carried onto public transport if the journey is too far to cycle alone, but takes too long to walk to and from the station. Of course, time is the number one issue for commuters, and according to Work Wise UK, cycling commuters spend less time commuting (42 minutes) than drivers (52 minutes) and rail users (2 hours 11 minutes).
This frees up a huge amount of time in a workers life when taking into consideration the whole year, and is likely to contribute to better sleep quality too. There’s even some controversy surrounding e-bikes, because they can reach car-like speeds which could be dangerous on cycle paths.
What will be required for these developments
Of course, there’s some proactive measures that need to be in place in order to ensure the transition to a bicycle-based commute system in a city. The cities that will achieve the Deloitte study’s forecasts are the cities that are developing a more sophisticated cycle path infrastructure, much like Dutch and German cities already have in place.
This often includes having a separate “road” for bicycles, that lay between the pavement and the road. This does mean that pedestrians will have to cross the left facing cycle path, the road, and then the right facing cycle path in order to reach the other pavement.
Other measures such as congestion charges, toll roads, car/road tax and petrol tax hikes all have contributed to the already-growing bicycle community. The core thing left, particularly in places like Britain, is the attitude towards being a cyclist itself. Instead of being seen as an annoyance, because they’re often in the way of cars due to their own lack of infrastructure, they are slowly becoming recognized as societally-conscious community members that are fit and healthy.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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