Here are two old articles I dug up from my files regarding two contrasting dualities. While there are gains for support of cycling as a mode of environmentally friendly transportation these usually happens on first world countries, where environmentalism is a cool thing while in third world countries, bike which was supposed to be the basic mode of transportation are loosing headway as a basic norm for people who are improving economically as bikes are seen as a poor man’s vehicle. A stigma that they would want to get out of.
Paradise Lost: The Decline of Bicycle Transportation In Asia
by John Hilary (London Cyclist)
Ten years ago, I went to live in heaven: a city of six million cyclists and barely a couple of thousand cars. A city with cycle lanes as wide as Oxford Street and attended bike parks on every other corner. A city where every consumer durable – fridge, washing machine, even three piece suit – was delivered by pedal power, and where whole sidewalks were given over to puncture repair stalls. I rubbed my eyes, bought my second-hand Flying Pigeon and joined the happy throng.
Today, that same city is choking on a noxious cocktail of exhaust fumes familiar to urban dwellers the world over. (In fact, its streets now have “oxygen bars” where citizens can stop off and rent an oxygen mask for a few minutes to help them on their way.) The bikes are still there, but the presence of a million cars, trucks, scooters and taxis has jammed the city and turned them into second-class road users. And so, the big question: why has Beijing given up a transport system that Londoners would give their back brakes for, and within the space of decade replaced it with an all-too-familiar nightmare?
Beijing is just one example. Throughout Asia, sustainable transport cultures are being replaced by more “modern” forms of traffic, with the same mounting air and noise pollution and horrific accident rates. Cities, such as Jakarta and Bangkok, have experienced problems for many years – gridlock in the latter has led some corporate executives to have their cars fitted with fax machines and portable latrines. Others can look back on their very recent past for examples of a cleaner, safer urban environ-ment – and yet they still press on towards the opposite. Why?
The central problem is that while the economies of Asia develop – many at breakneck speed – the development model being ollowed is one which ranks a city’s environmental health low on its list of priorities. More precisely, certain elements of the urban landscape indicate progress, others an unwanted past. Motorized transport falls into the former category: being able to afford a car, a taxi ride or – particularly in the Asian context – a motor scooter is a critical indicator of personal prosperity.
For a city, simply multiply this personal aspiration by a factor of several hundred thousand and you have the picture of a development “success story”. Nor is this idle vanity: the cities of Asia know that they have to put out the right signals if they want to pull in foreign investment. A “buzzing” metropolis is deemed preferable to one tinkling with bicycle bells. Development models which offer both environment and economic health are ignored.
Back at street level, this imperative to meet foreign ideals is seen most graphically in cities such as Dhaka, where cycle rickshaws have been banned from using the main thoroughfares from the airport into the city so that the elite can speed in more quickly in their limousines. A quarter of a million people still make a living from pedaling rickshaws in Dhaka; the effects of the ban on them remain to be seen. Similar restrictions have been placed in Delhi, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, to name a few.
But the picture is not entirely one of gloom. The local authorities in many Asian cities show more commitment to their environment than their counterparts in the industrialized world. Several municipal councils have put into effect a range of traffic management systems, including banning cars with certain number plates on certain days (e.g. Manila’s Vehicular Volume Reduction Program, which began last summer); investing large sums in public transport (e.g. the tube system in south China’s Guangshou); and restricting the number of licenses available for motor vehicles, particularly scooters (as in many Chinese cities).
Last year, Vietnam’s central authorities announced new vehicle tests for exhaust emissions, and in a parallel campaign against noise pollution, banned the use of horns after 8pm. Conspicuously absent from all these schemes, however, is the bicycle – which, after all, formed the hub of the sustainable transport systems of the past. Shanghai, for example, has done as much as any city to control its traffic problem, this year introducing emission controls on all vehicles and a total ban on further licenses for motor scooters (cars are already discouraged, with license plates costing the equivalent of 10 years’ salary for most Chinese people). Despite these moves, the city still plans to ban cyclists from its main streets, seeing them as part of the problem rather than the solution. For the deputy mayor of Shanghai, “the bicycle is just a reminder of past poverty.”
While many municipal authorities across Asia now spurn the bicycle, millions of urban Asians continue to use it all the same, and are prepared to fight for its place. When the Mayor of Guangshou tried to ban cycles from 11 of the city’s main streets public outcry was so great that he had to scrap the idea. In congested Jakarta, cyclists have mounted their own Critical Mass rides in a campaign for better facilities.
Perhaps the best example of a cycling campaign in Asia can be found in Bangkok. Five years ago, Dr. Thongchai and Kasama Pannsawad, set up the Thailand Cycling Club and a campaign for cycle lanes. Since then, they have been joined by other Bangkok cyclists, and last summer hundreds held their own Critical Mass ride to deliver a petition for better facilities to City Hall.
This may be part of a trend of environmental activism in Bangkok: Bhichit Rattakul, an independent candidate, generally regarded as an outsider, was elected governor of the city last summer on an environmental ticket – his election manifesto: A pledge to introduce bike lanes, tram service and pollution controls. He will have his work cut out: a recent study of 330 dead dogs revealed that most had died from air pollution.
Asia’s cities are under immense strain from the traffic which their economic success has generated. The bicycle may be associated with the past, but it is also the perfect answer for the future; pride in its very real achievements should challenge the dominant model of what it means to “look good”. In the words of one punter, sweating it out in a summer gridlock in Seoul: “When you’re stuck in a traffic jam, knowledge that the gross domestic product has just risen by 2 per cent isn’t much consolation.”.
International Bicycle Fund
Bicycle Transportation In Asia
How bike-friendly cities got that way
By Tatyana Margolin
San Francisco has the highest quality of life in the United States, according to a survey by Mercer Human Resource Consulting. It also is consistently ranked by Bicycling Magazine as a top city for cycling. And in San Francisco, cyclists have serious political pull.
The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition endorsed eight candidates for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and all were elected. The board, which is the transportation authority for the city and county, puts highest priority on pedestrian and cycling needs, followed by mass transit and trailed by cars. With the number of commuters growing, all public transportation has been equipped to carry bicycles, and driving lanes are being converted into bike lanes.
SFBC’s Co-Exist Campaign, co-sponsored by the Department of Parking and Traffic, aims to replace road rage with road etiquette. They have developed ads that feature photos of angered motorists and cyclists screaming polite messages of safety and awareness.
SFBC’s Web site is updated daily and features resources ranging from safety tips to a woman’s guide to bike fashion. In a city with hills that rival the steepest Pittsburgh has to offer, topography has hardly been a deterrent. Just the opposite. “There are thousands of people who ride there. They commute to work, they run errands on their bikes, they go record shopping, to get coffee, to movies, to shows. People ride absolutely everywhere,” said Scott Bricker, a one-time San Francisco resident, who sits on the board of Bike Pittsburgh, the city’s nascent bike-advocacy group.
Copenhagen The city with the sixth-highest quality of life in the world, according to Mercer, is also home to the world’s most successful community bicycle program. City Bikes (or “Bycyklen” in Danish), launched in 1995, placed 1,100 distinctive-looking bicycles throughout downtown Copenhagen for community use. One of the goals was to reduce congestion. City officials aim to transform a medieval area of downtown, with winding cobblestone streets and outdoor cafes, into a car-free district. Already one city neighborhood, the notorious commune Christiania, is completely car-free.
The bicycles used in the City Bikes program were designed with components that are incompatible with other bikes, preventing theft of parts. Since the launch of the program, bicycle theft in Copenhagen has decreased. The City Bikes program has become part of Copenhagen’s downtown culture. A researcher followed one community bike for 12 hours and found that it was not in use for only eight minutes. One of three adults bicycle to work in Copenhagen, where cycle planning and cycling are on a par with motor traffic and pedestrian traffic.
The Copenhagen cycle track network of some 200 miles was built over the course of almost a century. Chicago No other city in the United States is working as hard to become a cycling-friendly city as Chicago. In 1990, it was voted second-best city for cyclists by Bicycling Magazine, but for avid cyclist Mayor Richard Daley, it’s not good enough. “My goal is to make the city of Chicago the most bike-friendly city in the United States.”
Last year, the city installed its 8,000th bike rack, more than exist in any other U.S. city. Chicago aims to ensure that anywhere a cyclist goes, she would have a place to safely store a bicycle. By the end of the year, the city will add 25 miles to its 100 miles of bike lanes (Pittsburgh has fewer than 5 miles). “You can go almost anywhere you want and stay primarily in a bike lane,” said Matt Ryan, who spent three years living in Chicago before moving to Pittsburgh. Ryan was a bike messenger in Chicago for a year.
What are Chicago’s reasons for focusing on cycling? “It’s an effort to reduce congestion, improve quality of life, improve health and fitness levels of people living here and actually reduce cost in building new highways,” said Ben Gomberg, the city’s bicycle coordinator. Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, the area’s leading advocacy organization, works with the city identifying sites that need bike racks. It also pioneered a “Shop by Bike” program to educate merchants on the value of attracting and accommodating bike-riding customers.
They provide a brochure with detailed instructions on making a business bike-friendly. The goals are to support smaller neighborhood businesses and to encourage Chicagoans to incorporate exercise into their daily routines. Some Pittsburghers said that they could use similar initiatives here. “I only go shopping on my bike,” said Christian Reed. “If it’s not OK to bring my bike inside, I won’t shop there.” In the past 12 years, Chicago’s bike-to-work day has grown into bike week and eventually into Bike Summer with more than 120 events that take place in the summer months.
Portland, Ore. Voted No. 1 Best Overall city for cycling by Bicycling Magazine, Portland has close to 230 miles of bikeways, with 400 more on the way. Recently, it invested $34 million to build a bikeway on the new Eastside Esplanade, the longest floating walkway in the United States. Portland’s Create-a-Commuter program is the first project in the United States that provides low-income adults with commuter bicycles as well as a session on commuter safety. The bikes come outfitted with lights, a lock, a helmet, a pump, tool kits, maps and rainwear.
Portland has set six criteria for a bicycle-friendly community, five of which are targeted at curbing automobile use and traffic. The criteria include good facilities for bicycling, an urban design oriented to people and not automobiles, traffic restrictions in residential neighborhoods, stricter enforcement of traffic regulations, better traffic education for motorists
and nonmotorists, and restrictions on automobile use. “There is less congestion [and] traffic, and there are no vast parking lots,” said Jen Fox of the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh, who lived in Portland for a year and a half before moving back to Pittsburgh. “Portland is a role model.”