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Commentary: People love walking and cycling. So why aren’t more ditching their cars?

Commentary: People love walking and cycling. So why aren’t more ditching their cars? 2020-09-05Leave a comment

Commentary: Individuals love strolling and biking. So why aren’t extra ditching their vehicles?

LONDON: British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has introduced £2 billion (US$2.7 billion) to create hundreds of miles of protected bike lanes and pedestrian area. 

There are various good causes to encourage strolling and biking – lively journey, as it’s known as. The pandemic necessitates social distancing on public transport, which suggests buses and trains should ferry fewer passengers per journey. 

Biking and strolling are more healthy alternate options and in the long term, each have a component to play in chopping carbon emissions from the transport system, in addition to enhancing city air high quality.

Cities throughout the UK are selling lively journey in response to the pandemic. Manchester has dedicated £5 million to allow socially distanced biking and strolling on new routes. 

Sadiq Khan, the present mayor of London, has reallocated street area to pedestrians and cyclists to extend strolling five-fold and biking ten-fold.

READ: Singapore sees cycling boom amid COVID-19, with increased ridership and bicycle sales

READ: London streets to go car-free to encourage walking and cycling amid COVID-19 social distancing restrictions 

A ten-fold improve in biking would take the current 2.5 per cent share of journeys made by bicycle in London to the extent seen in Copenhagen, which is at present at 28 per cent. 

The Danish capital has had wonderful biking infrastructure for a while and a longstanding biking tradition.

However 32 per cent of journeys in Copenhagen are by automobile, which is simply rather less than London’s 35 per cent. Apart from biking, the opposite large distinction is public transport use, which accounts for 19 per cent of journeys in Copenhagen versus 36 per cent in London.

people walking on the street at copenhagen denmark

Individuals strolling on the street of Copenhagen, Denmark (Photograph: Unsplash/Ethan Hu)

This all signifies that we are able to get folks off buses and onto bikes, that are cheaper, more healthy, higher for the surroundings, and no slower on congested city streets.

However it’s a lot tougher to get folks out of their vehicles, even in Copenhagen the place everybody has expertise of protected biking.


Individuals like vehicles as a result of they’ll carry multiple passenger simply they usually provide loads of area for the stuff we have to lug round. 

There are some journeys which are only a bit too lengthy for a motorcycle trip, or that require you to look properly dressed and clear if you arrive. 

Many individuals like vehicles as a result of driving them feels good. Simply have a look at the large alternative in fashions, together with the present vogue for gas-guzzling SUVs.

Most vehicles are parked 95 per cent of the time. If their house owners are solely utilizing them sparingly, maybe sharing autos and journeys can be a extra environment friendly choice than strictly personal use. 

FILE PHOTO: Cars sit in a traffic jam along the Embankment in central London

Automobiles sit in a site visitors jam alongside the Embankment throughout the morning rush hour in central London, Britain, August 29, 2017. (Photograph: REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photograph)

The truth that so many individuals are keen to pay some huge cash for one thing they solely use 5 per cent of the time highlights the worth folks place on private mobility.

The basic attraction of the automobile is the straightforward entry it permits to folks and locations and alternatives and decisions – at the least when roads aren’t too congested and when it’s attainable to park at each ends of the journey. 

For entry to all this within the time out there for journey throughout the busy day, the automobile is probably the most environment friendly mode of journey for average distances.


Should you stay in a village with out a automobile, and with few or non-existent bus companies, your alternatives and decisions of labor, outlets and companies are restricted. Purchase a automobile and the probabilities develop considerably.

Though there are lots of concepts for changing vehicles exterior cities, equivalent to e-bikes for lengthy distances, their whole affect isn’t probably so as to add as much as a lot.

However in cities, roads are sometimes congested and parking is restricted. It’s actually attainable to interchange vehicles right here. Automobile use in London was at its peak within the early Nineteen Nineties, when it accounted for 50 per cent of journeys. 

READ: Commentary: Cycling great for going green but is still a pain in urban Singapore 

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As town’s inhabitants grew, street capability for vehicles was lowered to make room for bus lanes, cycle routes and pedestrian area. On the identical time, there was substantial funding in rail journey capability, all of which lower automobile use.

Past densely populated cities, although, the price of rail funding is tough to justify, and buses on congested roads don’t make an interesting different to travelling by automobile.

However buses on devoted routes freed from basic site visitors – generally known as bus fast transit – can work as a less expensive different to coach journey.


The pandemic lockdown confirmed how substantial adjustments to our journey behaviour are attainable. A few of these are prone to be long-lasting, as extra folks make money working from home, organize conferences with videoconferencing, and store on-line. 

However much less commuting for work and leisure may very well be offset by will increase in other forms of journeys, as folks really feel the necessity to get out of the home and interact with the broader world.

It’s not clear how a lot we are able to rely on altering journey behaviour to assist decarbonise transport and lower air air pollution. The federal government ought to as an alternative depend on changing fossil fuels with electrical energy – swapping combustion engines in vehicles, vans and trains with electrical batteries and motors.

Insurance policies to advertise strolling and biking are worthwhile for the well being and environmental advantages they are going to inevitably deliver. 

However they’re not prone to break the attract of the automobile on their very own, and the expertise of Copenhagen means that the largest pull might be from public transport as an alternative.

David Metz, is an Honorary Professor of Transport Research on the College Faculty London. This commentary first appeared in The Dialog.

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