Using Bicycles As An Alternative To Automobiles

October 21, 1996
Ecology & Design
University of Colorado

Abstract:

This paper basically shows the reasons to use the bicycle as an alternative
mode of transportation. It will points out the benefits of the use of a
bicycle. It will also show what is being done to get
rid of the negative aspects of using a bicycle for
transportation.

Bicycling is one of the fastest growing forms of recreation. People are drawn
to it for many reasons, being out in the fresh air, the thrill of speed, the
physical challenge, along with many other things. But there can be many more
uses for the bicycle. The use that this paper will focus on is transportation.

The use of bicycles can greatly improve the economy of a nation. A comparison
between the efficiency of the transportation systems of the United Stated and
Japan points this out. In 1990 Americans spent 17.9 percent of the GNP on
transportation, whereas the Japanese spent only 10.79 percent on transportation.
This difference of nearly 7 percent, gives the Japanese economy much more money
for investing in their future.

Our Economy is not the only thing we should worry about, and it is also not the
only thing that can be improved by the use of bicycles. There are several major
problems that could be drastically reduced by the increased use of bicycles.
Traffic would be a lot lighter due to the extremely small size of bicycles. It
would also greatly reduce the wear and tear on our roads and highways, and
therefore reduce government expenditure. But one of the most serious problems
it would reduce is that of pollution and smog in out larger cities.

There are more benefits to biking, though. There are benefits that come at a
more personal level.

Biking greatly improves ones health. It can be a way to exercise without taking
much times out of ones schedule. The time one would spend biking to work serves
two important purposes. One, getting to work, but also as a great form of
exercise.

Improved mobility in crowded situations. In downtown areas, biking to work may
actually save time. Cars crawl through congested traffic, while bicyclists ride
around it. The time it takes to park a car could also be factored in. Finding
a parking space takes time and may be far away, while bikes are easy to lock and
can be locked close to any destination.

Personal economics are also important. Cars are expensive to own and operate.
On top of the high prices for new cars, one must also pay for insurance, fuel,
and maintenance. Not only is the price of a new bicycle much lower, they cost
almost nothing to operate.

Still with all of these benefits, many people choose not to consider a bicycle
as a viable form for transportation. People feel that it is to time consuming,
to inconvenient, and to dangerous. But there are things that can be done to
change these facts.

How a city is designed will play a large part in whether or not people choose to
use bicycle as a form of transportation. Many of America\'s large cities are
not very friendly to the bicycle commuter. City streets should be wide enough
to have room for a safe sized bike path that is separate from automobiles and
pedestrians. This would improve the safety of bicycling.

Another method that can be used is traffic calming. Traffic calming is a term
that has emerged in Europe to describe a full range of methods to slow cars, but
not necessarily ban them, as they move through commercial areas and residential
neighborhoods. Traffic calming exists in certain downtown areas as a natural
outcome of design initiatives to accommodate sizable special populations.

Some the best examples of traffic calming are not in the United States. Traffic
calming was originally introduced in the Netherlands and Germany, but is now
being put to use in Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

In 1981, Germany set up six traffic-calming demonstration projects in various
places with varying density. The initial reports showed that there was a
reduction of speed from 23 mph to 12. The traffic volume remained constant, but
there was a 60 percent decrease in injuries, and a 43 to 53 percent reduction in
fatalities.

In a recent survey, most people showed that if conditions where improved, more
people use bicycles to commute. Things are being done to make things better.
Private organizations are offering incentives and promotions, and our government
is also making legislation to improve things.

The need for bicycle and pedestrian provisions to be fully integrated into state
and local plans