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
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
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)