Luckily for Peter Golkin, he gets his two favourite things everyday, as he rides his bike to work at Arlington Public Library. Millions of others like him benefit from using the bike as a form of transport, improving their health, reducing pollution, and saving money for themselves and society in the process.
Despite these benefits, the benefit of the bike to society is not recognised in many countries, or internationally. As a first step, the bicycle deserves an official annual World Bicycle Day sanctioned by the United Nations.
The humble bicycle has played second fiddle to the car for far too long: research published last year showed that not only could cycling cut a tenth of transport emissions of carbon dioxide, but more people cycling would cumulatively save cities across the world $25 trillion from 2015 to 2050 by reducing the need for expensive roads and public transport.
Figure 18 compares the total cost across all transportation modes in a 2015 High Shift Cycling (HSC) scenario, the current HSC scenario, and the business as usual (BAU) scenario.
Apple’s late Steve Jobs loved to compare the computer to the bicycle: "I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we're tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometre. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. … But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts. And that's what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it's the most remarkable tool that we've ever come up with, and it's the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds".
Beginning in the 1970s, the city of Bogotá, Colombia, began closing roads to allow people to ride their bikes free from the noise and danger of traffic. Since then, hundreds of cities around the world have followed suit including New York and – most recently – Paris. Almost 2000 cities take part in European Mobility Week each September, with one ‘car free day’ when citizens are urged to use other means to get to work. The huge global community of cycling enthusiasts runs thousands of other events to celebrate cycling, such as Bike to Work Days, Ice Ride, Teheran - City of Bikes, Climate Rides, Bike for Mom in Bangkok, Bicycle Festival in Seoul, International Cargo Bike Festival in the Netherlands or even the World Naked Bike Ride in Portland amongst many others.
Those events would be even more effective in showing cycling’s role as a solution to global problems if it was unified with a common aim. Setting a UN-endorsed World Bicycle Day would help to coalesce some of these diverse civil and citizen initiatives into something global.