Around the world by …bicycle


Why women tend to cycle more in cities with higher share of bicycle trips? Which city is the Amsterdam of the US? Is it possible a country's economy to rely on the automobile industry and its citizens to prefer travelling by bicycle? Why Canadians cycle more than Americans and Japanese more than Canadians? Do citizens of Copenhagen use their bikes to have fun or business? Does the cold climate prevent us from riding a bike? Which is the relationship between the bicycle, obesity and diabetes?

These were some of the questions that J. Pucher, Professor in the School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University in New Jersey focused on during his very interesting talk last Friday afternoon (11.16.12) @IURD, UC Berkeley. Actually, the discussion had already begun some hours earlier, when I had the chance along with several other researchers from UC Berkeley to have a brown bag lunch with Professor J. Pucher (many thanks to Dan Chatman, Assistant Professor of City & Regional Planning at UC Berkeley, who organized it!). Within almost an hour we managed to “travel” around the world discussing about recent trends in cycling research. Starting from Berkeley (where about an impressing for the US 8% of commuting trips are made by bike), we continued to Downtown LA, New York (where a new bike share program is about to start – Citi Bike), Amsterdam, Berlin, Copenhagen (where, contrary to the US, there is no gender imbalance in cycle use) and then Beijing, Sydney and Tokyo (where almost 18% of trips are made by bike although cycle infrastructures lag behind those of western Europe).
With Robert Schneider, Prof. J. Pucher, and Jesus Barajas @IURD|UC Berkeley
The discussion continued with a much wider audience after Prof. Pucher’s afternoon lecture “Promoting Cycling and Walking for Sustainable Cities: Lessons from Europe and North America”. He argued in his passionate talk that cycling and walking are the most environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable of all transport modes, and also a …clever way to maintain high levels of public health. Technologically advanced countries with high per capita income and high levels of car ownership like USA, Canada and Australia can have high levels of walking and cycling and much lower levels of car use just for a simple reason: a large share of trips today (41% in the US) are shorter than 2 miles. Northern European cities are great examples of cycle integration, but as Prof. Pucher noted “citizens of Amsterdam and Copenhagen were not born on bicycles, as many believe”. These cities have heavily invested in cycle and pedestrian infrastructures and discouraged car use before seeing significant increases in walking and cycling trips during the last 30 years. A smooth integration of bicycle with transit, education and enforcement are also important for enhancing cycle use. Prof. Pucher enriched his presentation with very interesting photos from cities around the world (especially North European), which have already promoted policies and programs to make cycling and walking safe and convenient for daily travel. He also included highlights from his new book (along with Ralph Buehler, and “a galaxy of international authors” as Prof. D. Banister has written about the book) "City Cycling" with MIT Press, which provides an overview of cycling trends and policies in cities across the globe. 
City Cycling @IURD|UC Berkeley
My conclusion: When you build it, discourage car use and promote cycle culture, they will come. It doesn’t matter what comes first, but it is sure that all together can create a success cycle story...


 Quiz answers (click for a larger view):

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