Europe Making Way For More Bike Lanes

An architect’s render of bike paths in Copenhagen. Photo: Ramboll via The Guardian

By Monica Medina and Zoey Shipley

May is national bike month when usually there is a big push to get more people in the U.S. to bike to work due to its environmental and health benefits.  Even during a global pandemic, the popularity of biking continues to rise.  And it turns out that biking may replace public transportation for many living in Europe’s largest cities, according to The Washington Post. During the lockdown, cities like Paris, Brussels, London, and Milan have been working hard to add bike lanes because they allow for better social distancing than public transportation.

Why This Matters:  Leaders and urban planners in Europe believe that people there are now appreciative of the lack of air pollution and will want to keep the air clear, in addition to the benefits from a health and safety standpoint.  This change in attitudes may fundamentally change European cities. Crowds in the Paris Metro or London Tube may be a thing of the past.  The real question is whether anything like it will happen here in the U.S.  As we wrote last week, public transportation — even if kept super clean — are challenged to provide the distances needed to prevent the spread of COVID unless ridership goes way down.  And then the numbers don’t work unless there is significant government support.

Europe’s Post Pandemic Changes

The increase of bike lanes in Europe is part of a bigger push for economic recovery programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prioritize a green recovery, in great contrast to the U.S. so far.  For many in Europe, more biking or walking is a necessity because they don’t own cars.  So new bike lanes are needed for an anticipated increase in bike riders as European cities begin to re-open again, and they will be visible because governments have ramped up spending on them.  In the inner city of Paris, “31 miles of roadway will be designated for bikes after the lockdown ends in Paris proper, including portions of the iconic Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre Museum and the Boulevard Saint-Michel in the Latin Quarter.”  And in the U.K., the government will soon begin to spend $2.5 B USD to encourage what the U.K. Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps told The Post will be a “once-in-a-generation change to the way that people travel in Britain.”

Happy Bike Month!

Here in the U.S., even though we have not made a switch to increase bike lanes yet, bike ridership is up. City streets have many fewer vehicles, and more time working from home has led to people wanting to bike more. For example, The Post reports that the city of Seattle is closing 20 miles of streets to most cars to allow for more space to walk and bike. Bike sales for both stationary and not are on the rise. The government has even declared bicycles to be essential transportation items. This a welcomed new practice, especially if people continue their excitement for cycling after this pandemic slows.  Another reason for the rise in biking is it has been proven to improve health, like helping improve respiratory fitness and even mental health. The question is whether electric bike and scooter ridership will also increase as an alternative to driving.

To Go Deeper: Check out this helpful guide to beginning your journey to cycling.

What You Can Do:  Take Hugh Hewitt’s advice and wear a mask when you bike (or jog) — protect your fellow Americans.  Also, you can join the National Bike Challenge here.

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