Bike infrastructure ranks #59 on Drawdown’s list of climate solutions. Better and more widespread bike infrastructure would eliminate 2.31 gigatons of carbon dioxide and produce net savings of US$400.5 billion, with further lifetime savings of $2.1 trillion.
The bicycle is a traditional way of getting around that is enjoying “another golden age”, Drawdown states, as municipalities look for solutions to air pollution and traffic congestion. City-dwellers are also increasingly interested in cheaper, healthier modes of transportation.
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Riding a bike produces zero emissions. But for bicycles’ popularity to grow in urban areas, there must be critical infrastructure in place—and that infrastructure must be introduced equitably, not just in privileged areas.
Drawdown points to “a tight link between networks of bike lanes or paths and the prevalence of bikers in a city or town. The more direct, level, and interconnected these tracks are, the better.” More broadly, measures to keep cyclists safe while sharing the road with motorists are critically important. For example, cyclists at controlled intersections can benefit from advance green lights, to make them visible to turning vehicles and give them right of way before the car traffic begins to move.
And although safety is the top priority on any roadway (and for any type of vehicle), social policies and cultural practices can also boost cycling. Drawdown’s list includes educational programs, tougher laws to protect cyclists, disincentives to buy cars, and bike-sharing programs.
In bike-friendly Copenhagen, cycling infrastructure is thriving. The city even created a system of traffic lights on its main roads that are synchronized to the speed of cyclists, an innovation that allows riders “to maintain their cruising speed for long stretches,” Drawdown notes. The result: 18% of local trips in the city are made by bike.
Funding and investment remains a barrier to improving cities’ bike infrastructure. But as the demand for bike travel increases, societies may see a cultural shift from relying on cars to commuting on two wheels.