The European Union is concerned about the efficiency and sustainability of their cities and realized that promoting urban cycling would improve the accessibility and life quality of citizens. Therefore, several programs were created in order to encourage people to diversify their transport means.
Since the last years the number of people riding bicycles in urban cities have increased substantially. It is a general phenomenon, not only in European Countries, but also in USA and some developing countries like India or South Africa. This increase in bicycles consumption may have been led for several reasons, from the increase in oil and public transports prices to paying more attention to health and environment or even to avoid traffic.
Young people are the principal users of bicycles as a mean of transportation. They are the ones who have lower income, who are more sensitive to oil price changes and who care the most about environmental issues. If some years ago the priority was to have a license and a car, nowadays people care about getting to places the faster they can and in busy, chaotic cities as the European ones, the young find in cycling the perfect solution.
Habits and preferences are changing, whether it is by social awareness or to substitute more expensive alternatives. Therefore, consumption patterns are changing too. The most interesting in all this experience is that the societies itself are accompanying all these transformations, even if the cycling history is almost inexistent. Both local and national governments support this behavior and are creating the necessary conditions in the different cities to facilitate the cycling mobility. More or new cycle paths are being built in the cities, as well as cycle parking and the driving code is being revised; there are bicycle sharing services that sometimes are free in the first half an hour and in the following have an inviting price. This service allows people to get a bicycle in one point of the city and give it back in another point, thanks to several stations implemented through the all city.
Although there was an increase in the demand for bicycles in the last 2 years, the European production in this industry has been declining since 2008. China has become the largest producer (and also consumer) of this transport and has been the largest export country. This can be explained because of the financial crisis that affected the purchase power of people, making them look for cheaper products that come from China.
This new trend is not only good for people’s health and pocket. It brings positive externalities like political advantages, with the reduction in dependence on energy; social advantages, such as the greater autonomy and accessibility; short and long-run ecological impacts with the reduction of pollution and dependence of non-renewable energies; municipalities gain more space on roads and parking areas and therefore the investments in roadways could be substituted for more pleasant and attractive places in city centers.
Nonetheless, there are some drawbacks in this whole solution, such as the cons of cycling in urban areas. This can be dangerous due to the lack of attention of drivers, more exhausting and it may take longer to get to the destination. It is also susceptible to weather and to the road conditions that do not exist in the all cities’ areas.
However, European Union is making an effort to both promote and support this behavioral change by creating conditions to guarantee safety and coordination to all the intermediates, from cyclists to pedestrians and cars. Associations and the private sector are being involved in the all process in order to make all the European cities cycle-friendly.