Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Urban bicycling is the branch of cycling that generally takes place in urban areas. Generally, therefore, it involves travelling small and medium distances (several kilometres) in an almost-exclusively urban environment (that is, in the town and its suburbs), whether on bicycle-specific lanes or sharing the road with other forms of transport.
The city cyclist
Promotion of urban cycling began to enter into political discussion as a response to:
- pollution and to the growing congestion in cities caused by the massive usage of cars
- the need of an improved environment
Certainly, urban cycling alone will never be able to entirely solve these problems, but it has formed a balance with developing public transport in the reduction of the importance of the car as a means of urban transport.
Urban cyclists face multiple difficulties:
- finding direct and safe journeys
- seeing and being seen, especially at night
- avoiding technical and weather hazards
In addition, cyclists can cause disruption when there is no cycle lane available and no way for other road-users to move past, as cyclists are naturally slower.
On the other hand, cycling every day brings a number of advantages for the cyclist as for the environment and society as a whole:
- financial savings on transportation
- keeping travel times regular – at times, cycling can be the most efficient system of moving around town
- ensuring best use of the space available (during trips and also while parked), therefore causing reduced congestion on the roads
- unlike cars or buses, bicycles don't pollute, leading to a more pleasant environment
- lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease (when practised for more than a quarter of an hour a day at a moderate pace) and therefore improvement of public health.
- There are no laws against cycling under the influence of alcohol
As opposed to athletic cycling, urban cycling does not seek enhanced performance, but improved efficiency.
A cyclist's equipment and the bicycle
The city bicycle consequently must be a sturdy vehicle, able to bear loads – such as shopping and children – with a luggage-rack, such as a saddle-bag or a basket.
It must be equipped with a mud-guard to protect the cyclist's clothing. It is also often useful for cyclists to provide themselves with waterproof clothing (such as a cloak, a poncho, or waterproof trousers) to protect themselves against rain, as even a short shower can make the cyclist very wet.
The bicycle must also have a light, as well as a hand-bell. A fluorescent or reflective vest or armbands can also be very useful for night-time journeys, although it cannot replace having a lighting system.
The bicycle can also include gears, more and more often using integrated hub gears for increased comfort (it is possible to change gears even at a stop) and simplicity (there is no risk of slipping the chain). The puncture risk can be reduced by the usage of anti-puncture bands placed between the inner tube and the tyre, by the use of bicycle tires incorporating Kevlar, or by using a viscous material injected into the inner tube – still, the prudent cyclist always takes a puncture kit or a general repair kit for small emergency repairs.
Measures for encouraging urban cycling
To facilitate journeys by bicycle and to increase the move from using cars to using bicycles, a number of measures and of tools can be taken by local groups and by residents' organisations, as well as by public- and private-sector businesses. These measures include:
- increasing the selection of journeys and improving the quality of these by specific cycle-lanes (which some say divide the road more effectively between the bicycle and other transport methods, and often encourage people that don't normally ride to ride more)
- improving the availability of storage arrangements
- providing measures against theft
- making the public aware of the advantages using the bicycle as a daily transport method.
Improved storage arrangements
This can be achieved by the increase of parking lots available for bicycles and bicycle-racks. These storage facilities can sometimes be supervised and sometimes charge a fee.
They are generally situated in shopping districts or at connection points between other methods of transport (such as railway, subway, tram or bus stations). In addition, the provision of storage arrangements in residential districts and places of work encourages the use of bicycles.
The theft of bicycles is one of the major problems that slow the development of urban cycling. Bicycle theft discourages regular cyclists from buying new bicycles, as well as putting off people who might want to invest in a bicycle.
Several measures can help reduce bicycle theft:
- making cyclists aware of antitheft devices and their effective use
- promoting devices to enable remote tracking of a bicycle’s location
- registration of bicycles to enable recovery if stolen.
Certain European countries apply such measures with success, such as the Netherlands or certain German cities using registration and recovery. Since mid-2004, France has instituted a system of registration, in some places allowing stolen bicycles to be put on file in partnership with the urban cyclists' associations. This approach in the countries where the recession allowed such measures, increased the recovery rate of the stolen bicycles to more than 40%. By comparison, before the commencement of registration, the recovery rate in France was about 2%.
In some areas of the United Kingdom, bicycles fitted with location tracking devices are left poorly secured in often-frequented places. When the bike is stolen, the police can locate the stolen bike and arrest the thieves. This sometimes leads to the dismantling of organised bicycle theft rings.
Increasing public awareness
Two methods are exploited to encourage the public to reflect on the manner that they use to move themselves in city, and to test the bicycle as a method of transport.
The first method is:
- reminding people of the advantages in terms of health and of effectiveness of using the bicycle
- making maps of journeys that can be completed by bicycle
- introducing campaigns to prevent risks, although these are often seen by cyclists’ associations as risking increasing fear in potential future cyclists.
The second method consists putting in place, sometimes in partnership with the private sector businesses, action to make possible the housing of bicycles. Various trials took place in France for example, with little success. In particular, making free bicycles available, completely subsidised by advertising, didn't have the expected effect, perhaps because of a very strong theft rate, raising questions about the economic model chosen. On the other hand, priced storage combined with the one of the public transport systems seemed to win a frank success (for example, in Toulouse).
Different associations of urban cyclists are instituted all over France, Europe and other parts of the world in order to promote and to develop and promote bicycling.
These associations can have an action of lobbying institutions to encourage political support or opposing measures that they judge counter-productive, such as the introduction in some places of compulsory use of helmets.
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