It is tragic that people are willing to spend hours sitting idly in traffic in order to go to the gym and pedal on static bicycles. Cities often try to accommodate the relentless increase of cars on the road by widening roads and prioritizinging cars over pedestrians or bikes. However, this is a miserable deal for everyone living in a city designed for cars instead of for people. Hostility, stress, and pollution are but some of the side effects of a car traffic jam.
Luckily, there are alternatives but they require a concerted effort from all of us who need to get from point A to point B. As the mesmerizing GIF above and the powerful photos below show, cars are inefficient and wasteful modes of transportation in an urban setting. Public transportation and bicycles require much less space, and, if designed to work together, can be much quicker, safer, cleaner, healthier, and more enjoyable than commuting by car. It is no surprise that in the EU bike sales have already surpassed car sales. Widespread bicycle use is possible even cities with complex terrains, as exemplified by San Francisco, Madrid, Lausanne, and Edimburgh, to name a few.
Before you retort that this is not feasible in your city becuase it is not designed for bikes and/or its public transportation system is inadequate, please remember that even the world's most bike-friendly country, the Netherlands, was once designed for cars. It took decades of activism and public outcry for authorities to pay attention and design cities that prioritized bikes and pedestrians over cars. The conditions that led to these protests include:
- Cities not being able to cope with traffic
- An intolerable amount of traffic deaths
- An oil and economic crisis that lead to gas shortages and high energy costs
- An environmental crisis
- People's will to change
The conditions that led the Dutch to revolt against the automobile were not unique and are now shared by cities all over the world. It follows that we can learn from their solutions. The clear lesson from these examples is that everyone (pedestrians, bicyclists, and car drivers) benefits from people-centered policies and designs rather than car-centric cities.