We are all trying to find that balance of work and play, such that we can feel we are contributing, but not to the detriment of our health.
During the last year we have seen many forces at play changing our societies. Perhaps we can see some tends to foretell the future.
The world is getting more crowded. There are now about 7.5Billion people on planet earth: more than twice as many as when I was born 50 years ago. These people are clustering in the cities. More than 50% are in urban settlements already, and by 2030 a third of the population are expected to live in cities of ½ million or more.1
In many parts of the world transport infrastructures and road networks are stretched to breaking point: commuting speeds are decreasing in most cities in the UK. As the average car speeds is below 10mph in Central London, the bicycle has become the fastest point to point form of transport. As time is money, cycling rates have grown: In central London by more than 200% since year 2000.2
Environmental considerations are now a major part of transport decision making, particularly in large urban environments. Paris has plans to ban the internal combustion engine by 2030. Electrification will assist replacing polluting cars, but will also drive cycle usage. Where hills are a barrier; where strength and fitness are restrictive, where distances are high, the electric bike can provide a cheap solution.
If the cycle can be the quickest and cheapest form of transport, then why is its modal share languishing in single figures in most UK cities?
Safety is usually the 1st reason given for not cycling and for sure the cyclist is very exposed when riding on the roads.
However, in London fatalities have fallen 46% in the last 10 years.2 Car design has more safety systems with soft zones to limit the loads from any impact. Accidents are also being avoided with automatic emergency braking, where the computer takes over from an inattentive human. We will see further improvements with smart sensing systems in years to come.
The final trend is an increase in leisure time. With an aging population and more automation freeing us from chores at home, we will have more leisure time. The health risks of a sedentary lifestyle are now clear, and regular cycling has been shown to improve life expectancy. Attitudes and habits will take time, but the direction is clear.
To conclude, cycling will play an increased role in work and play, as its health benefits to individuals and societies becomes more widely appreciated. Technology in the form of electrical power will widen the appeal, and sensing systems with computing power will improve the safety for all. As population density increases the economic and health answers are becoming clearer.
Bikes are expected to replace cars as the major form of transport in Inner London soon.
1 The World’s cities in 2016 – United Nations
2 Travel in London Report 9 -Transport For London 2016