Friday, June 16, 2006

Bicycle capital of the World

The industrialized nations made a terrible mistake when they turned to the automobile as an instrument of improved urban mobility. The car brought with it major unanticipated consequences for urban life and has become a serious cause of environmental, social, and aesthetic problems in cities. The urban automobile:

-Kills street life
-Damages the social fabric of communities
-Isolates people
-Fosters suburban sprawl
-Endangers other street users
-Blots the city's beauty
-Disturbs people with its noise
-Causes air pollution
-Slaughters thousands every year
-Exacerbates global warming
-Wastes energy and natural resources
-Impoverishes nations

The challenge is to remove cars and trucks from cities while at the same time improving mobility and reducing its total costs.

With over 60% of commuters travelling by bicycle Groningen is the World's best example of what can be done.

Today, the main form of transport in Groningen is the bicycle, and 60per cent of inhabitants travel by bike - compared with four per cent in the UK, and a national Dutch average of 25 per cent. But Groningen used to be anything but bike-friendly. The city's love affair with cycling began in earnest 16 years ago, when politicians backed radical proposals for digging up city-centre motorways to rid the city of traffic chaos and create a virtually car-free centre of green spaces, pedestrianised streets, more bike paths and separate bus lanes.

At first, the move was far from popular with the retail sector, which feared a mass exodus of shoppers to faraway shopping centres and a fall off in trade. But, in fact, the reverse has happened and businesses are clamouring for even more "cyclisation" of streets. According to city planners, the reduced congestion in the city has steadily benefited jobs and businesses. Faster journey times for employees have meant better productivity, and a nicer environment has brought in plenty of happy shoppers.

Bicycle-friendly urban planning is good for business

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