After many years of cities being based around the motor car, things have now changed, almost every smart city development plan has at its core a vision to limit the number of cars in the city. Every municipality is working on the best way to implement the solutions that work best for them and their citizens. In parallel, authorities must deliver alternative means of transport for the daily commuters – these must be efficient enough to persuade commuters to leave the car at home. Much focus is put on public transportation when promoting car-less commuting, but what about alternative ways to get from A to B.
Bike systems are spreading across towns and people have to be informed and motivated to use them as a valid substitute for cars. Even in London, which has not had a culture of cycling like Amsterdam or Copenhagen, city officials have torn up streets to put in segregated cycle superhighways – putting the bike ahead of the car and the results have been fantastic as cycling became mass transport with 32% of vehicles being bikes during morning rush hours. Investment in cycling infrastructure also proves it’s worth as, by February 2016, the number of people using Vauxhall Bridge since Cycle Superhighway 5 was completed nearly doubled and 3.4 thousand people are using the lane every day.
People don’t always make rational choices so it’s crucial they understand that they are making biased and irrational decisions to which authorities must bring solutions based on facts and rational thinking. The basic thing authorities have to start with is education. But not in the sense that they should repeat the oversaturated arguments of health benefits, but instead introduce economic and social benefits in an intelligent manner. Explain the benefits in numbers, have them understand that each action they take has consequences and highlight the good ones. For example, tell citizens the impact on the environment of one hour spent in the car versus one hour of cycling. More so, introduce safety measures and traffic rules as part the educational process.
Offer commuters no chance to complain. Investing in bike lanes is mandatory to provide citizens with a safe riding experience. When speaking of safety, authorities must develop strict regulations for drivers too because many times they disregard signs and park their vehicles across the lanes. Besides, it’s by far more cost effective to put money into cycle lanes than it is to treat health problems that cycling prevents.
Cheap is not the answer. Offer people a reliable bike sharing system because life in the city is fast, people need to get from one place to another quickly and bikes are a great way to move around. Besides purchasing a user-friendly system, authorities that invest in creating an app where people can locate the closest station, see how many bikes are available in real time, will have gone a step further in realising the goal of car-free streets.
Tempt citizens with offering discounts. Put together a reward system to promote the public bike system which will ultimately retain citizens and make them permanent users. On one hand, citizens can be given discounts to different public services whether it’s a library or a pool. On the other, municipalities can make use of the public-private partnership principle and together with local vendors offer discounts for food and beverages.
Some of the above ways should help to turn people from the automated wheel and onto the pedalling wheel – this will also benefit people who already own a bicycle. Some may have bought one just for recreational purposes, now why not embolden them to use it on their daily commute?
Fewer cars on the streets mean better quality air, more space, less noise pollution and possibly an improvement in the overall tidiness of the city – authorities have the power to make it happen because they have the means to make the changes and appeal the masses.