Expanding the cycling infrastructure is essential for increasing activity levels for this mode of transport and shift from individual car transport. In many cases cycling can be described by the “if you build it they will come” mentality – development of cycling lanes results in an exponential growth in cycling as more and more destinations can be reached by bike. Infrastructure improve safety for all those using the road and help cyclists to feel more safe during their journeys.
For this purpose, cycling infrastructure should not be developed for the sake of developing it. There are important elements that need to be considered to facilitate modal shift and use the resources for cycling infrastructure in a more targeted way.
- While each kilometer of cycling lane matters, if prioritization is needed, the cycling lanes connecting separate urban centers or even separate but neighboring cities should be given priority (see cycling motorways)
- At the same time, it must be ensured that available space is used. This concerns flood banks, parking spaces, unused railway tracks.
- Equipping cycling lanes with lighting increases their safety and their utilization (see increasing safety)
- Planning of cycling lanes should be given priority when the city is rebuilt or renovated
- Cycling lanes should be clearly separated from other modes of transport, especially cars and pedestrians.
Cycling infrastructure is not only much cheaper per kilometre than roads, but also are also much more welcome in the neighbourhoods due to less space needed, as well as almost no noise and, lack of air pollutions. The trend towards cycling also increases the value of the properties connected to cycling bike network.
Commuter cycling faces similar issues to cycling in general, but it does additionally require some special considerations when it comes to infrastructure and planning. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for cycling commuters is that they have to travel at peak times, where traffic is the heaviest and drivers are rushing to get to work, making unpleasant interactions more likely. In such situations separation of cycling lanes from the main road is essential.
Implementing bike lanes, particularly in cities, could be a huge step in improving both the safety of cyclists and thus the take up of cycling for commuting. This can be seen in the city of Copenhagen, where they have integrated cycling into the infrastructure of the city. Painted bike lanes and specific traffic lights for cyclists mean that cycling is a viable method of commuting (see below for further details). As a result, there are more people on bikes, and less people in cars, reducing traffic congestion. Not only is this good for the environment, but it has the circular benefit of making it safer for cyclists.
Perhaps one of the most annoying things about cycling to work is not being able to store your bike safely once you get there, or being able to take a shower. Sitting at your desk all day whilst sweaty is not appealing for you or for your co-workers, and can be a big barrier in the uptake of cycling for commuting. Businesses can support cyclists by offering changing facilities and secure storage. Ideally, offering flexible working hours would also mean that cyclists could avoid travelling in at peak times, potentially offering a more attractive, safer commuting experience.
Bogotá boasts one of the world’s largest and most rapid increases in cycling as a share of all urban trips. Between 2005 and 2011, the cycling trips rose 57%. In the subsequent four years there was a further increase by 30% of bicycle trips. Plan Bici is set to set a long-term target to double the CicloRutas network in extent over the next twenty years & ingrain a ‘bicycle consciousness’ in the minds of younger citizens. (C40 Cities Finance Facility, 2020). It also has the grand vision to be achieved by 2038 (the 500th anniversary of the city’s founding) of making Bogotá the ‘cycling capital of the world’ & and having bicycle routes within 500 meters of every household in the city.
Germany recently published the “National Cycling Plan 3.0” which aims to create a cohesive vision for cycling infrastructure through 2030. The plan focuses on creating sustainable infrastructure solutions and improving connections and infrastructure in rural areas or areas which are currently underdeveloped. It argues that cycling is at the heart of sustainable transportation development and must be clearly and purposefully improved in order to build better communities, improve citizen health, and shift transportation governance in a more sustainable direction to meet emissions goals in the face of an ever-more dangerous climate crisis.
Named the Cambio Biciplan, Milan is undergoing a massive cycling infrastructure expansion. In an effort to make bicycling the most convenient choice for transportation, Milan is creating a cycling network of 750 kilometres where new routes are constructed and linked to existing routes. About 86% of Milan’s residents will live within 1 kilometre of the new network. Cambio Biciplan also seeks to improve public health, cut traffic, and address some of Europe’s worst urban air pollution by reducing vehicle emissions. Smart technology such as motion-sensor lighting and digital information displays will be installed too and supported by optic cables running alongside the routes. Routes will open as soon as Summer 2022 and the project will be completed by 2035.
The Bike Storage Company. (2020). “How To Start Cycling”
When discussing the expansion of cycling infrastructure and the greening of transport, most attention is paid to short-distance trips. However, cycling may also play an important role in replacing other modes of transport for mid-distance trips within a city, or even between neighbouring cities. An important element to incentivise such trips is the implementation of cycling highways, also known as bike freeways, bike highways, or fast cycle routes.
To classify as bicycle highways, the routes need to fulfill the following criteria:
- be dedicated solely to bicycle traffic
- be longer than 5km
- be built of materials which facilitate higher speeds than normal inner-city bike paths or sidewalks, e.g. asphalt or concrete
- pass under or over motorways
- have no traffic lights
It is recommended that bicycle highways align with previously established commuter routes, serving hubs and new developments with the potential for 200-500 cyclists per day. Contrary to the usual cycling routes, the population density in the pass-through areas is secondary to the potential resulting from the overall size of the population at the starting and ending point of the bicycle motorway.
By reducing conflict with cars and pedestrians and creating a dedicated space which prioritises speed for longer distances, bicycle highways incentivise long-distance cycling trips which otherwise may have been taken by car or more emissions-intensive transport. Improvements in lighting, road surface conditions, and traffic safety brought on by new and improved cycle highway infrastructure have been linked to improvements in cyclist satisfaction and number of trips. Induced bicycle trips (i.e. those which otherwise would’ve not been made by bicycle) have been estimated to increase to 6% of all trips in areas where bicycle highways were built, and overall bicycle traffic increased by 33% in the daytime and by around 73% in the evening hours.
Key organisations supporting the implementation of bicycle highways in Europe specifically are the European Cyclists’ Federation, the European project for Cycle Highways Innovation for smarter People Transport and Spatial Planning (CHIPS), and the Super Cykelstier Office.
Denmark has implemented a network of cycle superhighways between the Capitol Region and 30 surrounding municipalities. Routes are clearly marked with road signs and orange marks on the asphalt and connect residential, commercial and university districts. As of 2020, 40 routes are open with another 20+ planned – totalling over 850km of bicycle highway in the region. The number of cyclists on the Farumruten has increased by 68% since the route became a bicycle highway in 2013.
Belgium has built bicycle highways in the Flanders and Brussels regions, totalling more than 100 routes and 2,700 kilometers, although not all routes are finished yet. While bicycle highways do not yet have a specific legal designation in Belgium, routes are currently marked with a dedicated F symbol and systematic signage. A dedicated route planner is available online, which allows cyclists to plan and download trip routes, indicate and look up road conditions and highway quality, and submit work requests.
China has built the longest elevated cycle path (as opposed to the traditional ground-level, highway adjacent bicycle highway) in the southeastern city of Xiamen. The route is 7.6km long and connects the main residential and commercial districts and provides connection to bus and subway lines.
Safe cycling lanes
Safety ranks as one of the most important factors contributing to a person’s decision to increase their cycling activity. Both real and perceived safety are critical when designing bicycle infrastructure. The percieved risk of cycling on roadways and around traffic has been shown to be one of the most significant deterrents to cycling.
Key strategies for increasing safety when cycling include:
- calming and reducing auto traffic in dense city centres by reducing speed limits, reducing the amount of car parking spaces and making certain spaces completely car-free
- increasing the separation of bicycles and motor vehicles in both time and space in order to decrease potential conflicts between the two modes of transportation
These strategies are linked through their shared goal of decreasing interactions between modes of transport, which are often the deciding factor in safety and number of accidents, as well as the perceived safety of cyclists. This can be implemented through the use of different bicycle corridor treatments, such as buffered bike lanes, coloured bike lanes in potential conflict areas, bicycle boulevards, cycle tracks utilising strategic rumble strip placement, bollards, and parking protection to separate bicycles and cars. Parking protected cycle tracks require widened buffer space to prevent conflict between cyclists and car doors, as well as special considerations for para-transit vehicles which may require wider buffers for ramps and mobility aids.
Intersection treatments are critical to maintaining cyclist safety; the National Association of City Transport Officials recommends bike boxes, clear marking and two stage turning, refuge islands and/or bicycle through-ways to improve safety outcomes.
Netherlands: Amsterdam is a good example of the importance of well-adjusted roads in promoting cycling. Thanks to the construction of roads that are specifically adapted to the infrastructure of cities, the comfort of cycling and a sense of security will increase. This, in turn, can help to promote cycling for children and the elderly who are physically restricted to some extent.
Denmark: Copenhagen experienced a drastic modal shift from cars to bicycles in the 1970s. Contributing factors included the rising prices of oil, as well as geographical factors, such as a relatively level surface of land and the small size of the capital. Copenhagen managed to increase the subjective feeling of safety by an estimated 20 to 100% on its bike paths through investing in separate and elevated bicycle lanes. According to the 2017 study, the number of cyclists on such paths increased by 15-20%. Overall, the more cyclists regularly using the roads, the safer they become for bicycles.
Germany: In Germany, bicyclist visibility and safety is enhanced through placement of separate stop lines for motorists and bicyclists. Where a bike lane runs parallel to a signalised intersection’s approach lane, the stop line for the bicycle lane is placed closer to the intersection, and motorized vehicle traffic is forced to stop behind the bicyclist. This design practice enhances bicyclists’ visibility and particularly helps reduce conflicts between right-turning vehicles and bicycles.
Long distances of daily commutes count as one of the key factors preventing people from switching to active forms of mobility. Combining different modes of transport is a solution for cities with unfavourable geographical conditions for cycling, such as hilly or mountainous areas. Given the right policy conditions, multimodal mobility, which includes different modes of transport within one journey, could be more popular among cyclists than cycling alone. In Germany, multimodal commuting constituted 67% of all bike-inclusive ways of getting to a workplace in 2013, whereas only 33% of Germans chose to cycle the full distance.
Making it easier to bring bikes on trains, subways, trams or even buses would make it possible for long-distance commuters to move from cars to an intermodal trip, part of which would include cycling. Promoting multimodality that would include cycling requires:
- adapting the existing fleet for increased bike transport needs, eg. including more foldable seating and special compartments in the trains and subways,
- decreasing or abolishing fees for the transport of bikes on public transport – with particular emphasis on regular commuters,
- building more parking spots (both for bicycles and cars) near train stations, long-distance or rural bus stations – with priority given to highly frequented and peripheral stations,
- increasing the accessibility of train stations by building ramps or lifts – which also increase accessibility for mobility aids used by people with disabilities.
The EU financed Interreg Smart Commuting Programme provides interesting resources on supporting the development of multi-modal and environmentally friendly transit systems with an emphasis on transnational projects in CEE states.
Augsburg, Germany introduced the country’s first mobility flat rate, enabling local consumers to enjoy bus, car sharing, bicycles, etc. for a set monthly rate of €79,00.
Gronigen, Netherlands implemented a series of Park and Ride locations (P&R) which accomodate commuters both on bicycles and in cars and connects them to major city services, both within and outside of the city centre. From P&R locations, electric busses depart every 5-10 minutes and achieve an occupancy rate of around 70% at the busiest hours, a relatively high rate. This is achieved through a public-private and metro-regional partnership, which focuses on improving interchange locations by adding or improving amenities such as covered bike racks, charging for e-bikes, and reduced fare transit between homes and hubs. This program has been relatively successful in stimulating use of intermodal commuting and to nudge commuters towards less emissions intensive transport.
London, United Kingdom has a public transit network which is consistently cited as a leading example of a multi-modal network, with extensive rail, bus, and ferry options. All networks are integrated with stations designed to facilitate easy transfers between transport modes (incl. bicycles and walking) for high volumes of passengers. It is noted for its high number of on-site staff to answer questions and solve problems resulting from scheduling, construction, or other issues which may throw off a multimodal commute. London’s Oyster Card has achieved high levels of usability and holds multiple forms of tickets for local and regional transit of all types. The system is highly complex, and contains period tickets, travel permits and “pay as you go” travel funds operated through a tap-in, tap-out system. Since 2014, it has been supplemented through the use of contactless payment via bank card in addition to Oyster Card payments to a highly sucessful level – 1 out of 10 contactless payments in the UK are on London’s transport network.
Oslo, Norway: Oslo Pass: in addition to travel on all public transport in the city, includes (for a set fee based on 1, 2 or 3-day use): i) entry to more than 30 museums and attractions; ii) parking in municipal car parks; iii) entry to outdoor swimming pools; iv) participation in walking tours; v) discounts on sightseeing, a ski simulator, Tusenfryd Amusement Park, concert tickets, climbing, ski and bike rental; and vi) special offers in restaurants, shops, entertainment and leisure venues.
Hungary has introduced a national rail ticketing system which links with the national identity card for four million individuals, as of 2020. It is a smart card-based system with the ability to store transportation tickets in addition to the identification information already held on the card.
Bike rentals are a good alternative for people who, for some reason, cannot afford or do not want to buy their own bike. For this reason, bicycle rentals and bicycle sharing systems have also been cited as a potential solution to the “last mile problem”, where the most part of the journey will be conducted by other modes of transport, e.g. public transit systems.
Bike rentals can be divided into short- and long-term rentals. Short term rentals tend to be close to points of interest and within mixed-use or commercial districts, facilitating last mile connections for trips which may have otherwise used more emisions intensive modes of transportation. The decision to make trips with short-term rental bicycles often depends on a reasonable distribution of rental stations, fee schedules and the existence of substantial bike infrastructure. Easy ticketing, e.g. the usage of public transport ticket for short-term rentals, could facilitate its utilisation rate.
Longer term rentals applies to situations where individuals rent a bicycle for weeks or months at a time, only returning the bicycle at the end of their leasing term. These programs are advantageous in that they remove the high startup cost that is often associated with bicycle usage, which may be prohibitive to some users. It may especially benefit those visiting a city for a period of up to a few months (e.g. foreign students) and not wanting to purchase a bike that they would have to sell afterwards. This type of free-floating model prioritises flexibility and longer trips over short-term rentals.
By reducing barriers to bicycle use and addressing the last mile problems, bike sharing solutions provide an alternative to private car use, thus resulting in lower emissions and increased mobility of citizens and visitors.
A majority of bike sharing options are offered by private firms, such as NoBelity, Holland Bikes, and Aveola – a service from Culture Vélo. The Dutch firm Swapfiets has more than 200,000 members in 50 cities in France, the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium and Denmark. Decathlon also offers such services in France.
Citi Bike includes over 1,300 stations with bikes across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Jersey City, making up a system of short-term, urban rentals where individuals check out a bike from one location and may return it to another.
GetHenry provides Long-term e-bike renting based on monthly subscription service for e-bike rental in Germany. The rental lasts between 6 and 36 months depending on the offer, renewable under the conditions specific to each model. There are two main forms of bicycle leasing, long-term rental (LLD) or rental with purchase option (LOA). During the rental period the maintenance and insurance costs are covered.
The issue of transporting bulky products constitutes one of the major reasons stopping car owners from giving up their cars. This is the case, even if the cars are rarely used for transporting such products and alternative options (e.g. car rentals) exist. Increasing the availability of cargo-bikes constitutes an additional option that could facilitate the resignation from private car ownership.
Cargo bike sharing reduces private car trips. The Institute of Advanced Sustainability Studies found that of the 931 cargo bike users surveyed, 46% would have made their trip with a car in the absence of a cargo bike sharing scheme. Cargo bike useage appears to be habit-changing as well – of those surveyed, over 90% indicated they want to use a cargo bike again. However, one of the biggest barriers to cargo bike usage continues to be pricing and access. Only one third of the users surveyed intend to buy their own cargo bike, indicating that schemes supporting occasional usage for inter- and multimodal transport are desirable when it comes to cargo bikes.
Nonetheless, private ownership of cargo bikes consitutes an option for those transporting bulky products more often. For this purpose, policy makers should consider introducing subsidies for the purchase of cargo bicycles to reduce the high upfront investment – as is the case for electric vehicles.
Vincenzia, Italy passed a series of restrictions on the use of cargo vehicles in the city centre in the late 1990s and 2000s in order to protect the historical city centre and reduce emissions. Despite protest by delivery companies, currently a majority of deliveries in the city centre are via cargo bike. Packages are collected at smaller consolidation centres around the city and ferried via bicycle to their recipients.
Germany and Austria host a network of privately initiated and voluntarily organised cargo bike rental stations developed almost unnoticed in 2013. Some of the have electric drives. They are available on a donation basis. This initiative provides the perfect ground for evaluating the effectiveness of such systems for policy-makers and analysts.
As with other forms of cycling, electric bicycles are seeing a significant increase in popularity, particularly as people seek alternative forms of transportation, exercise, and entertainment in light of increasing environmental concerns. In 2019, over 3.4 million e-bikes were sold in the EU, and sales are projected to reach 13.5 units annually by 2030, assuming favourable legislation continues to be upheld. Electric bikes appear increasingly often in the offers of car manufacturing companies. According to EU regulations, the battery can provide work until the cyclist reaches a speed of 25 km/h. When this speed is reached, the motor must switch off and the rider can accelerate further using only their muscles.
The advantage of e-bikes in comparison to regular bikes lies in them allowing to travel much larger distances within or even between municipalities, thus replacing activity levels for passenger cars. Recent inquiry suggests that each additional e-bike on the road has the potential to reduce vehicle-kilometres travelled by 2,000 per year, net carbon emissions by just under 500kg per year and increase physical activity, producing additional health benefits.
The main ways to increase e-bike adoption include:
- Increasing public e-bike charging stations in and around high traffic areas
- Financial incentives for purchase and use, including subsidies and/or tax breaks for the purchase of e-bikes, as suggested by the EU Council in December 2021 for the amendment of the EU VAT Directive
- Further development of bicycle infrastructure to facilitate increased bicycle traffic and improve safety outcomes, especially cycling motorways
Germany established the JobRad program, in which employees of participating firms are allowed to obtain a bike or e-bike at a reduced cost. Currently, over 30,000 employers participate in the program.
Sweden offered a 25% subsidy for the purchase of an electric bicycle between September 2017 and August 2018, a program which has attained massive popularity despite its relatively short-lived nature. Bike purchases were subsidised up to 1,000€ and saw an 50% increase in sales during this time period. Industry group Cykelbranschen estimates that e-bike market shares continue to increase despite the discontinuation of the subsidy program.
The European Union additionally announced a VAT reduction on the purchase and repair of e-bikes as part of the recent discussion around VAT reform. Partnering with the European Cyclists’ Federation and industry group CONEBI, member states have agreed to cut VAT rage on rental, purchase, and repair in areas where VAT rates can be legally cut. Before this reform, e-bikes had been included specifically in transportation forms powered by fuel, oil, or gas and were therefore subject to higher VAT. This reform is expected to reduce uptake and maintenance costs and provide a boost to the e-bike industry.
In most cases, the battery from an e-bike can be separated from the bike and charged at home. In addition, many individual owners have equipped themselves with a charging cable and asked to use an outlet at a cafe, library, shop, or other location along their journey. This solution is fairly ad-hoc and relies on the goodwill of shop owners and operators, and there are concerns about ensuring compatibility with the amp-rating of the charger for any particular e-bike, the type of outlet, type of battery, and expected distance to travel. Therefore, over long distances or for regular commuting, availability of easily accessible charging stations for e-bikes may increase their uptake and facilitate modal shift. This may especially be the case if longer, multi-day, domestic excursions by e-bike may constitute an attractive alternative to emissions intensive foreign trips.
The main three options for charging stations for e-bikes could be:
- provision of charging opportunities along touristically attractive cycling lanes, which would be clearly marked on the maps
- encouraging service providers for cyclists to install charging stations with subsidies or tax breaks
- encouraging employers to purchase or install charging stations for their employees
Beginning in the summer of 2018, Bosch offered “PowerStations” around major tourist areas in Europe where Bosch e-bike owners can leave their bike batteries in lockers to charge. This model is used by Bike Energy, who offer charging stations all over Europe. However, individuals will need a specific adapter to connect their bicycle battery to the Bike Energy charging ports. There are also websites with maps of charging points for electric bikes, so individuals can find charging ports at any point along their journey.
Smart lighting company Lightwell has adapted ashtray poles which were removed in the Netherlands after smoking was made illegal at train stations and turned them into charging points for e-bikes as part of a pilot test with ProRail. The charging points are free to use and relatively simple, and have the potential to support multimodal trips by both e-bike and train.
Public health and cycling
In some parts of the society, especially in rural areas, cycling is still perceived as an option subsidiary to individual car transport. This perception can be changed by presenting cycling as attractive and fashionable with numerous co-benefits. Such a campaign could be coordinated between urban planners, cycling and neighbourhood organisations, civic groups, local and central governments, and even healthcare professionals, in order to cohesively and effectively convince the general public of the benefits of cycling.
The campaign should reinforce the message that cycling is highly beneficial to the individual and society as a whole. At the individual level, the messaging could focus on health benefits: Health professionals should focus on the fact that cycling may help individuals live longer and healthier lives. The broader, societal focus could underline such benefits as the alleviation of traffic congestion, noise pollution and air pollution from combustion engines. The idea that each bike contributes to a reduction in traffic jams, could improve the sometimes difficult relations between car drivers and cyclists. Cities can additionally focus on the economic benefits associated with increased cycling and improved multimodal transportation– higher property values, increased retail sales and private investments.
By coordinating messaging, managing perceived risk, and reminding individuals of the individual and social impacts of cycling, it is possible to motivate cycling and multimodal transportation in addition to responding to increased demand for healthier and safer transportation which is less emissions intensive.
Seville, Spain focused on citizen participation and involvement in the development of their cycling infrastructure. Initially using public polling to establish public support for increased cycling and infrastructure projects, by deliberately placing decisions in the hands of the citizens, Seville was able to ensure that its citizens were invested in the project and felt that they had a say in the development of their city. The Mayor then capitalised on the popularity and political will generated, and built critical bicycle infrastructure within one term, which saw cycling trips increase eleven-fold within only a few years.
Atlanta, USA announced in 2016 that it would be putting $1 Billion towards bicycling and walking projects over the course of 25 years, in an ambitious plan which would reshape the cycling infrastructure of an entire city in a neat package which is centrally focused around increasing awareness of the health and environmental benefits of cycling, in combination with massive infrastructure investments. The slogan “Walk, Bike, Thrive!” has become ubiquitous and messaging has focused on neighbourhood revitalisation, how the program will benefit Atlanta’s schoolchildren, and the health benefits of cycling and walking.