Using Bicycles As An Alternative To Automobiles

Essay, Research Paper

Using Bicycles As An Alternative To Automobiles

October 21, 1996

Ecology & Design

University of Colorado


This paper basically shows the reasons to use the bicycle as an alternative

mode of transportation. It will points out the benefits of the use of a

bicycle. It will also show what is being done to get

rid of the negative aspects of using a bicycle for


Bicycling is one of the fastest growing forms of recreation. People are drawn

to it for many reasons, being out in the fresh air, the thrill of speed, the

physical challenge, along with many other things. But there can be many more

uses for the bicycle. The use that this paper will focus on is transportation.

The use of bicycles can greatly improve the economy of a nation. A comparison

between the efficiency of the transportation systems of the United Stated and

Japan points this out. In 1990 Americans spent 17.9 percent of the GNP on

transportation, whereas the Japanese spent only 10.79 percent on transportation.

This difference of nearly 7 percent, gives the Japanese economy much more money

for investing in their future.

Our Economy is not the only thing we should worry about, and it is also not the

only thing that can be improved by the use of bicycles. There are several major

problems that could be drastically reduced by the increased use of bicycles.

Traffic would be a lot lighter due to the extremely small size of bicycles. It

would also greatly reduce the wear and tear on our roads and highways, and

therefore reduce government expenditure. But one of the most serious problems

it would reduce is that of pollution and smog in out larger cities.

There are more benefits to biking, though. There are benefits that come at a

more personal level.

Biking greatly improves ones health. It can be a way to exercise without taking

much times out of ones schedule. The time one would spend biking to work serves

two important purposes. One, getting to work, but also as a great form of


Improved mobility in crowded situations. In downtown areas, biking to work may

actually save time. Cars crawl through congested traffic, while bicyclists ride

around it. The time it takes to park a car could also be factored in. Finding

a parking space takes time and may be far away, while bikes are easy to lock and

can be locked close to any destination.

Personal economics are also important. Cars are expensive to own and operate.

On top of the high prices for new cars, one must also pay for insurance, fuel,

and maintenance. Not only is the price of a new bicycle much lower, they cost

almost nothing to operate.

Still with all of these benefits, many people choose not to consider a bicycle

as a viable form for transportation. People feel that it is to time consuming,

to inconvenient, and to dangerous. But there are things that can be done to

change these facts.

How a city is designed will play a large part in whether or not people choose to

use bicycle as a form of transportation. Many of America’s large cities are

not very friendly to the bicycle commuter. City streets should be wide enough

to have room for a safe sized bike path that is separate from automobiles and

pedestrians. This would improve the safety of bicycling.

Another method that can be used is traffic calming. Traffic calming is a term

that has emerged in Europe to describe a full range of methods to slow cars, but

not necessarily ban them, as they move through commercial areas and residential

neighborhoods. Traffic calming exists in certain downtown areas as a natural

outcome of design initiatives to accommodate sizable special populations.

Some the best examples of traffic calming are not in the United States. Traffic

calming was originally introduced in the Netherlands and Germany, but is now

being put to use in Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

In 1981, Germany set up six traffic-calming demonstration projects in various

places with varying density. The initial reports showed that there was a

reduction of speed from 23 mph to 12. The traffic volume remained constant, but

there was a 60 percent decrease in injuries, and a 43 to 53 percent reduction in


In a recent survey, most people showed that if conditions where improved, more

people use bicycles to commute. Things are being done to make things better.

Private organizations are offering incentives and promotions, and our government

is also making legislation to improve things.

The need for bicycle and pedestrian provisions to be fully integrated into state

and local plans and transportation policy documents has assumed even greater

significance due to the ISTEA and the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

States were not required to have long-range transportation plans until ISTEA was

passed, and Metropolitan Planning Organizations have had little or no control

over project selection until now. Because of this fact, in the past, State

highway agencies have dominated the spending of highway and transportation

dollars. Plans developed at the city level would often contain many worthy

transit and non-motorized projects.

ISTEA makes a number of important changes. Both levels of government are now

required to produce annual transportation improvement programs and long range

transportation plans.

These plans ?shall provide for the development of transportation facilities

(including pedestrian walkways and bicycle transportation facilities) which will

function as an intermodal transportation system.? (Section 1024 (a) and 1025


State long-range plans are required to have ?consider strategies for

incorporating bicycle transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways in

projects where appropriate throughout the state.? (Section 1025 (c)(3))

State long-range plans are also required to have ?a long-range plan for bicycle

transportation facilities and pedestrian walkways for appropriate areas of the

State, which shall be incorporated into the long-range transportation plan.?

People need to realize what the over use of automobiles is doing to our country.

Our nations wealth is probably the greatest contributor to this problem.

Americans generally feel that a car is a necessity and not a luxury. We are

also spoiled with some of the lowest gasoline prices in the world.

Some suggest an increase in gasoline taxes to drive people towards the use of

alternative modes of transportation. Surveys shows that it would influence more

people to not drive as frequently. But economists feel when the government

imposes an intentional price floor on a common product, it can only hurt the


All of these things will help influence people to use alternative modes of

transportation. But when it comes down to it, everyone must make a personal

choice. Bicycles will probably never be as convenient as automobiles, and in

this writer’s opinion, they shouldn’t be. Commuting on a bike is a sacrifice in

some ways, but we need to set our priorities straight. No legislation will do

that for us.

Boulder is probably one of the best place to get into the habit of frequently

using a bicycle. In this community bikes are generally a lot more convenient

than cars, in pretty much every aspect.

Probably more than half of the time, I can get to wherever I want to in less

time on a bike than in a car. Not to mention the time saved by not having to

find a parking spot. This is accomplished by the use of good bike routes,

underpasses, and having the right of way over cars. I use my bike almost daily,

whereas I would probably use a car about once a week.

It is also a lot more economical to ride a bike than to drive a car, especially

on campus. As I already mentioned cars require several expenses, whereas bikes

require almost none. Also on campus, if you have a car, you must pay for a

parking permit.

I plan to use a bicycle whenever and where ever possible. I think that everyone

should own a bicycle and a least use it occasionally. I would like to inform

other people of how easy it is to use a bicycle for transportation.


1.United States, Integrating Bicycle and Pedestrian Considerations Into

State and Local Transportation Planning (Washington: The Administration, 1994)

2.United States, Transportation Research Record, Pedestrian and Bicycle

Planning With Safety Considerations (Washington: Transportation Research Board,


3.United States, Actions Needed To Increase Bicycle/Moped Use In The

Federal Community (Washington: U.S. General Accounting Office, 1981)

4.Mike Hudson, Bicycle Planning (The Architectural Press: London, 1982)

5.National Research Council. Transportation Research Board. Pedestrian

Behavior and Bicycle Traffic (Washington: National Academy of Sciences, 1980)

6.National Research Council. Transportation Research Board. Nonmotorized

Transportation Around The World (Washington: National Academy Press, 1994)

7.National Research Council. Transportation Research Board. Nonmotorized

Transportation Research, Issues, and Use (Washington: National Academy Press,


8.John T. Doolittle, Integration of Bicycles and Transit (Washington:

National Academy Press, 1994)




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