As of 2012, more than 50% of the world's population live in cities. By 2030, this figure is even expected to increase to two thirds. One of the most important challenges in this context is to gain an insight into the growth, connections and movement patterns of these complex systems. It is therefore worth creating strategies for an attractive method of public transport that is sustainable and energy efficient. (unfpa.org, 2012).
Urban mobility in context
A comparison of 40 European states revealed that the car is a strong competitor to non-motorised transport when it comes to short journeys of less than 5 km, whereas public transport is the main competition for the car for distances greater than 5 km. (Gasco, 1999)
In 2009, researchers at the German Federal Environmental Agency systematically studied the CO2 saving potential of such a shift in short distance transport:
- Approximately half of all car journeys are shorter than five kilometres
- A quarter are even shorter than three kilometres
The initial kilometres use up a large amount of fuel, therefore generating a high amount of CO2 emissions, due to a "cold engine". In 2005, these short journeys alone produced over 14 million tonnes of CO2 in Germany. By 2020, this figure will still amount to 11 million tonnes despite a significant expansion in fuel-saving engines.
Cycling plays an important part in the solution to urban traffic problems, especially in terms of cost efficiency. If the social, environmental and health aspects are taken into account, there is little doubt that the typical costs of public transport are hundreds of times higher than those of cycling infrastructure. In London, it would cost the same to install 2000 km of a cycle network as 400 m of the Underground network. (Mayer Hillman, 1995)
"The most dramatic influence seems to be on potential users, who appreciate fast and easy solutions on their trips. For this group, even a slight delay or obstacle can lead to a choice of another mode of transport (normally the car). Rules and regulations set by cities have a major influence on the outcome of the cycle parking facilities. In many cases, cycle parking facilities are implemented at the minimum required level, which is not enough to promote cycling. More detailed regulations are needed for planners and constructors. (Perälä, 2012)
"Well-planned and large-scale bicycle parking becomes necessary when the worst traffic safety problems are solved. In addition to serving cyclists' needs, parking enhances the image and visibility of cycling. Cycling will gain more credibility as a part of the traffic system ... The possibility to store a bicycle at home will essentially affect the decision of whether a person will ever choose cycling as their mode of travel" (Salo, 2000)
There is a bright future for cycle parking at railway stations with respect to the improved total travel time – even faced with rising fuel prices and the possibilities of electric bikes. Cycle travel also forms a substantial part of a more efficient public transport network by making it possible to avoid capacity bottlenecks at rush hour. (Thiemann-Linden, Fahrradparken am Bahnhof, 2010)
Cycle usage and intermodality
"In addition to factors such as population density, income, workplace locations and retail structure, cycle usage primarily depends on the topography of a city. A hilly, widely-spread terrain discourages cycle usage, whereas cities with a flat and circular topography are more inviting for cyclists. (Jensen, 2000)
In most cases, distances of up to five kilometres can be covered quite comfortably by bike (or on foot).
Bikes are even the quickest form of transport for distances of up to three kilometres.
This means that there is great potential for a successful shift of short distance journeys onto bikes.
Shared cycles as a cost-effective form of mobility
Bike-sharing and cycle-hire systems are enjoying a surge in popularity. More and more cities and public transport providers are seeing these as a cost-effective addition to their networks.
If we take political goals seriously, there are challenges that must be overcome for cyclists in stationary traffic in the wake of increasing cycle usage:
- More detailed scientific analysis of the current behaviour of road users (movement patterns, motivation, reasons)
- Provision of parking areas for cyclists
- Provision of electric bike-charging stations
- Expansion of bike sharing systems and other sharing models
The trend towards e-mobility
By using electrically-assisted bikes – the ever more popular Pedelecs – longer distances of between 10 and 20 km can also be covered more comfortably and in a more environmentally-friendly way than by car. With help from pedalling, the electric motor makes it easier to climb hills, cycle into the wind and cover longer distances, thereby unlocking further potential for a shifting of journeys from cars in favour of emission-free forms of mobility.
An intensified use of Pedelecs can lead to a significant increase in the proportion of cycle traffic, especially over longer distances. In the future, this will play a role in rural areas in particular by enabling access to railway stations located farther away.
Electric bikes use about one kilowatt hour of electricity per 100 kilometres, and charging a bike costs around 20 euro cents per kWh. Depending on the mixture of electricity sources, this produces just 4 to 14 g of CO2 per kilometre. In comparison, the average car emits 140 g of CO2 per kilometre. However, the infrastructure for this "new" means of transport still needs to be put in place first of all in order to provide new approaches to traffic-related problems, not just for urban settlements, but for rural areas as well.