“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.” - John F. Kennedy
From cradle to grave …
Currently, two billion bicycles are in use around the world. Children, students, professionals, laborers, civil servants and seniors are pedaling around their communities. They all experience the freedom and the natural opportunity for exercise that the bicycle easily provides.
That number could rise to as many as five billion bicycles by 2050, especially with the development of the electric bike that we are seeing worldwide. Over 50 percent of the human population knows how to ride a bike, and the annual production of bicycles is now over 100 million per year. In comparison, car production is currently at about 60 million units per year.
The bicycle is unique and deserves to be given a focus by the global community that it surprisingly has not yet received.
This is especially true of politicians who often underestimate the power of voters who take their freedom to pedal very seriously. City planners also need to be aware of how the bicycle contributes to decreased congestion and improved urban livability worldwide. There are, however, some wonderful exceptions such as the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Rome mayor, Ignazio Marino, Taipei mayor, Ko Wen-je, the 108th Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, Paris mayor, Anne Hildalgo, Rio de Janeiro mayor, Eduardo Paes, and former Washington DC mayor, Adrian Fenty who recognize the importance of incorporating bikes into city planning.
Many countries and cities already share best practices on how to become more cycling friendly. A process that the European Cyclists’ Federation and World Cycling Alliance is heavily engaged in, which recently lead to the EU ministers of Transport agreeing in a groundbreaking “declaration on cycling as a climate friendly transport mode” at a meeting in Luxembourg in early October 2015.
The former mayor of Munich, Christian Ude once said, "Do we want people in leading positions that are too scared to cross a city center on a bicycle? Of course not. Let cyclists get at it!” Cyclists – as citizens - tend to be a very organized and active group with bulk voting power that could be unleashed at any time to advocate for global policy change.
Hello, cycling is global social movement!
With France’s Tour de France, Italy's Giro and Spain's Vuelta, UCI’s world championships rotating each year to a different city, and with the Olympics held on different continents, competitive cycling covers the world. Japan, for example is still enjoying the traditional Kirin races. Cycling for all is well rooted in countries such as the Netherlands, where they have more bicycles than residents. The Netherlands also enjoy a amazing infrastructure with heated bike paths, and artistic marvels such as the illuminated Van Gogh’s bike path powered by solar energy. There are even floating cycle roundabouts. With its many amenities for bicyclists, Copenhagen, Denmark bypassed Amsterdam as the most bike-friendly city. Forty-five percent of all work and study places within the Copenhagen are reached by bicycle every day. Interestingly, thirty percent of families with 2 or more children use the cargo bike as their primary means of transportation.
The Old Continent is in the process of transitioning smoothly from cars to cycling. The use of the cargo bikes for commercial freight in inner city areas has become the “new normal.” This massive behavioral and cultural change is not only about carbon sequestration, but also related to space preservation and health improvement. The bicycle stands very strong as a singular means of transportation, but is also the new model of multi-modal transportation. Down-Under, cycling lovers excel in elite cycling. Team Australia has grand tour, Olympic, and rainbow jersey triumphs under its belt.
South America breeds an extraordinary group of mountain climbers, while North America is home to a growing number of cycling races, including this year’s #Richmond2015 and the super exciting RAGBRAI event. Many American cities are undergoing change and making efforts to become more bicycle friendly with assistance from organizations like People for Bikes, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association, and more. Increasingly, non-for-profits are turning into cycling as a platform to galvanize their constituencies for social causes such as climate change, LLS, MS, and AIDS, and they have raised MILLIONS of dollars while providing an easy way for average citizens to cycle and interact socially with one another.
This year’s Tour de France featured the first African-continent team, MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung, a team which is committed to #bicycleschangelives and raising funds for Qhubeka, World Bicycle Relief’s program in South Africa. The team is quickly becoming a vibrant part of the World Tour.
China is also becoming an unrivaled leader in bike sharing stations in their mega-cities.
If the stationary bike is taken into consideration, there are bicycles in Antarctica, in Outer Space on the board of International Space Station, and even onboard the airplanes of global leaders. Stationary bicycles are a top choice for many navy sailors, too, while on overseas missions. Water bikes are another option and top choice for water hiking at many resorts.
Last, but not least, the global community of cycling is happy to see the rapid development of cycling for women, which has become a solid fixture of every major event on top of strong performances from para-cycling.
You don’t have to be Albert Einstein to understand the power of bicycle!
Globally, bicycles are affordable for both rich and poor as an everyday mode of transportation, and usable by men and women, young and old, alike. Bicycles improve physical fitness, reduce air pollution and CO2 emissions, and only require low-cost infrastructure.
Cycling can even be intellectually stimulating. Consider the words of Albert Einstein, who when asked how he came up with the theory of relativity replied, "I thought of that while riding my bicycle". He is also quoted as saying, “Life is like riding a bicycle; to keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
Clean Development Mechanism and the bicycle carbon impasse?
Transport contributes to about 23% of global CO2 emissions and is predicted to keep growing. Based on current trends, the world’s share of GHG emissions derived from transport could be as high as 50% by 2030.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) promotes greenhouse gas reduction projects that contribute to sustainable development, such as carbon neutral transportation projects and others that might also include and promote bicycling. It is the first global, environmental investment and credit mechanism of its kind, providing a standardized emission offset instrument. Defined in Article 12 of the Kyoto Protocol, the CDM allows projects in developing countries to earn a saleable credit, certified emission reduction (CER), for each ton of CO2 equivalent they reduce. Countries with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Protocol can use CERs to cover a part of their commitment. The CERs are also used by large events, companies, organizations and even individuals to offset unavoidable emissions. The CDM is also used to deliver results-based finance to drive sustainable development and monitor the end results. To date, almost 8,000 CDM projects and programs have been registered in 107 developing countries and some 1.6 billion CERs have been issued.
However, transportation projects, despite their potential, have to date been underrepresented in the CDM, comprising only 0.3% of all projects. To date, there have been no projects targeting bicycling. The main reason for this is the time-consuming procedures required for credible quantification of emission reductions and for fulfilling CDM requirements, particularly when a large number of small emission reduction activities in distributed locations are involved. Many of these complexities are being resolved through the introduction of Program of Activities (PoA) under the CDM. Steps are also being taken to address this with the possible development of more CDM methodologies specifically designed for the transport sector, including projects promoting non-motorized transport, such as use of bicycles. The CDM carries a tremendous opportunity to promote bicycling worldwide as cycling intensity of travel is only 17 grams CO2e/km. It is time to start a global dialog on how to make use of the CDM to include cycling as the preferred mode of transportation. It’s time to take seriously this marvelous machine that can help us avoid polluting emissions and create a healthier and more eco-friendly world.
On two wheels around Seoul!
One of the economic super powers, the Republic of Korea is starting to pay more attention to the phenomenon of the bicycle and its practical use. From the Blue House to City Hall, politicians and experts are analyzing every scenario. Bicycling in Seoul has included thousands of bicycling enthusiasts along Han River, but another important step has just been made by inviting the citizens of Seoul to a bike-sharing concept with 20,000 brand new bikes for public use in the downtown area by the year 2020. Currently, Koreans own almost 17 million bicycles, and more than fifty percent of the Korean population uses a bike at least once a month for leisure. The greatest priority for bicycle advocates is to exchange for bicycles the cultural and symbolic image of a car as a prestigious possession and the primary means of transportation.
Witnessing the Korean success in the implementation of the public transport in the city of Seoul in early 2000, we should only assume that they would approach bicycle policies with the same outcome. Seoul could be a perfect place to start de-motorization of the Asian continent, if not the entire planet! Non-motorized transport is a relatively inexpensive investment for cities to make to reduce GHG emissions when used to complement mass transit projects such as energy efficient rail and bus systems.
The stars are aligned for Korea to take a charge in harnessing CDM for cycling!
The current Mayor of Seoul, who was just elected as new President of ICLEI, is fully aware that bicycling is eco-friendly, healthy and economical. It's a common practice in Asia to share knowledge and experience. Whenever the officials of such a mega-city like Seoul focuses on a new project, others are sure to take notice! Another chance to engage in worldwide dialogue on cycling will be at Velo-City Global 2016 taking place in Taipei in February.
In fact, cycling advocates in Kuala-Lumpur yearn to work together with Seoul officials while harnessing the CDM. The first global accord for the CDM bicycle application has been signed on October 15, during the “2015 Seoul Bike Symposium”, hosted by Seoul Metropolitan Government and organized by the Seoul Bike Transport Promotion Institute, lead by Kwon Heog-Chul. Perhaps, now is the time to unite in solidarity and speak with one voice on behalf of the bicycling global community and to include the bicycle in the battle against carbon emissions!
A word of wisdom and pragmatism from a man who knows a lot about Solidarity:
“I'm lazy. But it's the lazy people who invented the wheel and the bicycle because they didn't like walking or carrying things.” - Lech Walesa
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Top photograph of bikes in Ghana by Arne Hoel/The World Bank
Phtograph of Albert Eistein- permission for publication granted by Leo Baeck Institute
Mayor Park, Won-Soon (Seoul City) - permission granted by Seoul Metropolitan Government