News By/Courtesy: Athul Joseph | 27 Jun 2020 22:58pm IST

HIGHLIGHTS

  • German cities have been using removable tape and temporary signage to create wider bike lanes that allow cyclists to comply with social distancing.
  • Berlin, Paris, Brussels and Milan are among the major European cities rolling out both permanent infrastructure and pop-up ‘corona cycleways'
  • Bicycles have enjoyed a boom during the pandemic. Will it last as car traffic resumes

It's an increasingly important problem for those who still have to go to work or gather supplies or visit vulnerable people – how do you get around without catching – or transmitting – the coronavirus? Cycling may be the solution. The immediate caveat to mention is that this is not a call to make every trip by bike. If you're going 25 miles at night to collect 50 kg of food bank supplies well, you could do it with a freight bike, but it's a non-starter for most people. But with more than a third of trips in the United Kingdom less than two miles, and more than 60 percent less than five miles, there is scope, particularly in urban areas, for many more one-person trips to be made.

 Why the cycle, then? The coronavirus-specific paradox of a bike is that at the same time you get out into the road, in contact with fresh air, the changing atmosphere of spring and summer, and other people, but it's very unusual to be near others. Even at a rush hour traffic light in a city, you can almost always take a meter or two of your own, away from other drivers and passengers. Cycling for day-to-day transport has not so far been curtailed outside places that have imposed extremely draconian containment measures, such as China. Although Italy and Spain have placed temporary bans on recreational cycling, it is legally legal to ride a bike for allowed daily travel, albeit with reports from some over-zealous police officers.

On Thursday, the Chief Executive Officer of British Cycling, Julie Harrington, wrote to Matt Hancock, Secretary of Health, urging ministers to add cycling to their list of recommended activities during the outbreak. For the longer term, more normalized health consequences of people living excessively inactive and sedentary lives – from type 2 diabetes to cardiovascular disease and several types of cancer – is one of the world's leading causes of early death every year. Precise figures are hard to estimate, but one frequently cited statistic suggests that 80,000-plus people die early every year in England alone due to the health consequences of inactivity.

Instead of impeding the use of the bike, policymakers can use the coronavirus crisis to make it easier, particularly in towns, so that people can reduce the usage of public transport. It would take a matter of hours for cone-off lanes to create temporary bike routes so that more people could ride safely. The capital of Colombia, Bogotá, has already started to do so. I would also firmly condemn any ban on recreational and leisure cycling, which is so beneficial for both physical and mental health. The reason seems to be to remove the burden from health systems if a cyclist is injured and needs care.

This is addressing the issue in the wrong way. Cycling is an extremely secure mode of transport where almost all threats are external – that is, from drivers and other users of motor vehicles. If the intention is to prevent road casualties, the best way would surely be to reduce speed limits and urge careful driving. This could be turned into a coherent strategy. So, for example, big cities could introduce 20 mph overall speed limits – I will personally go 15 mph – with room set aside on main roads for bike use. For so many people commuting from or limited to their homes, there is a drop in traffic rates in many towns, even with public transport off-limits. This would make walking more pleasant, too. One of the many consequences of the pandemic has been a decrease in pollution rates in many cities as vehicles sit at home. Some have even speculated that in some countries, the death toll from coronavirus could be significantly offset by fewer people dying from air pollution.

Governments around the world are taking action that, a few weeks ago, they would have dismissed as fantasy. Boris Johnson 's government does not, at all, oppose the concept of implementing a universal basic income, a concept that, when put forward by the Greens in 2017, was regarded with derision by the conservatives. So why not make it easier, not more difficult, to cycle? At one stroke, you keep people at a distance during travel and make them safer in the long run – not to mention more likely to be able to see respiratory infections like Covid-19.

THIS ARTICLE DOES NOT INTEND TO HURT THE SENTIMENTS OF ANY INDIVIDUAL, COMMUNITY, SECT, OR RELIGION ETCETERA. THIS ARTICLE IS BASED PURELY ON THE AUTHOR'S PERSONAL VIEWS AND OPINIONS IN THE EXERCISE OF THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT GUARANTEED UNDER ARTICLE 19(1)(A) AND OTHER RELATED LAWS BEING FORCE IN INDIA, FOR THE TIME BEING.

Section Editor: Pushpit Singh | 28 Jun 2020 10:18am IST


Tags : Cycling environment

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