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In Beijing, once the definitive bicycle city, authorities are responding to growing congestion and ongoing smog by setting a new target: for 23% of commuters to pedal to work by 2015. Ambitious? It may not seem so, when you consider that four fifths of the city’s population cycled to work back in the 1980s, but now the car is king and the proportion has dropped to 19.7%.
To complement the target, new infrastructure for cyclists is to be wheeled in, with improved bicycle lanes, more parking facilities and a rental scheme to put a further 50,000 bikes on the roads by 2015.
Small changes to infrastructure can make a big difference for commuter cyclists. Copenhagen has introduced new foot rests to help you catch your breath at the lights, and two-wheelers in London can now signal that they are waiting for the green bike by pressing a button.
But it will take more than cycle-friendly traffic lights to lift the proportion of morning journeys into central London by bike up from 1.7%. Sustainable transport charity Sustrans is calling for national targets to be set, alongside measures to deter car-users, such as a fuel duty escalator, parking levies and road pricing.
“The gap between government aspiration and delivery on the ground is huge,” says Jason Torrance, Policy Manager at Sustrans. He hopes to see the sort of changes that are making a difference in other European cities, for example, Copenhagen’s policy of priority for cyclists at junctions, and Munster’s cycle ‘beltway’ around the city centre.