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What would happen if everyone cycled?

Will more people on two wheels transform our cities?

Imagine your city with more cyclists. What would change?

·      Less car congestion
·      Cleaner air
·      Quieter streets
·      More green and open space
·      Healthier people
·      Safer travel

Doesn’t that sound like a vision of the future we all want?

We spoke to three people who work and advocate for cycling in our cities about their vision for the future.

Fernando Garcia - Bicycle Mayor of Madrid

“In my vision the city would increasingly be without cars, more people will be cycling, walking and using public transport. The problem we have now is the space we dedicate to active mobility and public transport is only around 20% of our streets. The other 80% is given to cars, who move less than 30% of all city trips.”

“In the future we would dedicate way less space to cars, there would be more convivial space for people to enjoy. Space for people to meet, to play, to communicate. Madrid is a very social city, we like to be out in the streets and to meet people, but the environment now is quite hostile in many neighbourhoods because of cars and traffic.”

“Most people who cycle now are men, young and fit. It excludes children, the elderly, the disabled and there are significantly less women cycling then men. If we want to have an inclusive cycling population, we need to make cycling look safe, convenient, easy and fun. To do this we need to separate cyclists from the fumes and the danger of riding in traffic.  It doesn’t mean that there has to be a cycle lane in every single street, but there has to be a full network across the city that is completely joined up.”

“The problem I see is how we transition from where we are to where we want to be. We cannot eliminate most car trips overnight, but a network of protected bike lanes can be implemented quite fast, in a few years, not decades. Most people want to see this happen, and the only difference between cities that accomplish it or not is not its size or complexity, but the political will to make a shift towards active mobility and a more livable and sustainable urban environment. We have to change our priorities, we cannot keep expanding car infrastructure.”

Catriona Swanson - Transport Planner

“When it comes to thinking about a city where the majority of people are able to cycle, the really good thing  is that we don't have to imagine it. We can go and look at the Netherlands! We know it is possible.”

“In a city where more people cycle, the streets are quiet, which encourages even more  people to walk and cycle. There are still cars in a cycling city, and those cars can move around easily. Surveys show that places where there is a lot of cycling,  like Amsterdam, are some of the easiest places to drive as  more short and unnecessary  journeys are done by bikes.”

“A lot of people focus on protected cycle tracks but  creating low traffic neighbourhoods which unravel the car network from the cycle network are invaluable for providing safe, direct, low traffic routes for cyclists. It gives transport choices for everyone, people are not forced into cars. Children, older people and non drivers have options and choices on how they travel.”

 

“My work is about  making communities inclusive - many people say ‘ I could never cycle because…’ so we need to remove those barriers and make space for cargo bikes, tricycles and electric bikes and think about the different needs of users of these bikes.  Making residential bike storage for larger bikes or heavier bikes such as e-bikes, providing cycle parking and slightly different cycling infrastructure supports everyone”.

“Low traffic neighbourhoods are quieter places. Where there are less parked cars there is more space for other things such as trees and pocket parks. An area becomes more attractive. It is good for the local economy; as it is easier for people to move around they visit local shops, cafes and businesses more frequently.”

“Children are more independent because parents can trust that  they can travel safely, they play out in the streets more which leads to their parents talking. When you walk or cycle you see more of the people you live near and are able to stop for chat on the way. It is well-documented the positive impacts of living in quieter areas with cleaner air. More people cycling and low traffic neighbourhoods lead to healthier happier communities.”

Chris Oliver - Retired professor of medicine and surgeon

“It would be absolutely wonderful to have a city where everyone cycled.  More people cycling will have a dramatic effect on city life, health and environmental change. Change will take years and years for many cities, it needs leadership, the political will and a lot of time. In the UK, for example, we are 40-50 years behind the Dutch.”

“If you are physically active a day for 30 minutes a day you might live longer - as much as 7 years longer than the average population at the moment. Here the population is less physically active now than it was ten years ago, which is shocking. We have to get more people cycling to reap health benefits.”

“More people cycling would  have a huge effect on the obesity crisis. If you cycle regularly you can expect to lose up to 10kg in a year. We know if you are a Type 2 diabetic and lose 10kg it could be enough to put you into remission. Gastric bands and gastric bypasses are expensive surgery - it will be an enormous health benefit to individuals and save billions of pounds for health services for people to lose weight through cycling. If you can get Type 2 diabetics back to normal healthy levels it reduces the use of medicine, surgeries and amputations, and improves many other health conditions.” 

“It can only be good for everyone, not just the cyclist but the rest of the population as well. Pollution levels will drop which will be a great thing for lung health.  Mental as well as physical health will improve. You are only one cycle ride away from a good mood! People will arrive happier at work, more energised. But facilities need to be in place - proper shower facilities, bike security.”

“The antagonism between cyclists and cars saddens me. With more people cycling there is  safety in numbers.  It will also mean more road users who understand cycling.

It's important to start with children. Children who are safe to walk or cycle to school are more likely to continue to walk or cycle when they are older. It changes attitudes - kids go home and want to cycle more, which encourages their parents too.”

“Cycling benefits all of society by creating a healthier environment through less pollution and a safer environment where more people are comfortable walking and cycling. Cycling investment saves a country money by easing the pressure on health services caused by Type 2  diabetes and obesity.”

What is your vision of a cycling city? Share your #FutureCity ideas with us