Monday, 3 November 2014

An 8 year old's birthday wish - A world where the bike is the world's primary means of transport

Leon turned 8 on Saturday, and despite his bike being locked up in a shed in Utrecht, while we were away at Eurocamp, his birthday wish was a world where the bicycle was the main form of transportation.
Not so strange, impossible or impractical - most journeys we make are short, and the main reason we reach for our car keys is more down to habit and in the UK, because if you ride, you risk someone trying to kill you and them blaming you because they didn't see you.
Living in a land where the infrastructure allows most journeys to be performed by bike and seeing that, surprise, surprise, that's what people do shows it's not just a child's unrealistic dream.
All over the developing world, the bike is already the preferred work horse, but in China and India, the emerging middle classes are being herded into cars by advertising and promises of a life that the west seems to be enjoying. They can add the heart and respiratory disease and road deaths to their new found riches. Or they could take the emerging trends in from the Netherlands and Denmark and think about where all these people are going to park their new cars (electric or otherwise) and instead provide them with the integrated transportation so that the car, a useful tool when used in context could be available when you need it. It's only down to the might of advertising that everyone needs there own to feel normal -it can be normal to share, hire or borrow one and not need to have several sitting cluttering up the streets.
Still I feel that even the Netherlands is in the grip of the auto industry - advertising in Holland is still pushing car ownership as hard as it possibly can and trying to reduce the costs making the number of cars parked all over the streets ever more a problem. They are still in conflict between local councils trying to make a place pleasant and liveable verses the ever powerful auto industry, who might be nowhere near as powerful as in the US but still pull out every trick in the book to draw people away from being rained on in return for paying an arm and a leg to pollute, make themselves less healthy and work even harder to keep a lovely shiny car.