Every new year begins with good intentions. Ours is this: more liveable cities and more bikes for all!

Bike Culture & Tips

Every new year begins with good intentions. Ours is this: more liveable cities and more bikes for all!
January 2018

How heavy is the air we breathe? We increasingly hear people speaking about “particulates” that grip cities, especially in the more populated urban centres, making the air unbreathable and moving around in the car extremely damaging for the environment and for people’s health.

From the World Health Statistic 2017 report published in spring and based on the data collected up until 2014, it has been revealed that air pollution is the main cause of death amongst the European population, being particularly concentrated in the Eastern countries. Despite having witnessed a significant reduction in the emissions of many pollutants over the past ten years, thanks to environmental policies and the development of new technologies, the national and international situation is still not good. Indeed, it is estimated that 82% of the European population is exposed to levels of air particulates that clearly exceed the WHO’s guidelines, taking victims of pollution to more than 400,000 in more than 41 countries in the Old Continent, in 2014 alone. But the data relating to the last three years are still missing and, in the meantime, we know that some things have changed. Therefore, we would like to look to the future with optimism and think about what we can actively do to turn this sad trend around.

Making daily choices that reduce pollution is not impossible or even difficult. Bicycles are introducing themselves again as a form of ecological transportation that is healthy and easily accessible to everyone. The increasingly widespread practice of bike-sharing, for example, allows us to take a small step in the right direction without having to completely disrupt our own habits. Taking advantage of bikes made available for whoever wants to move around the city easily, without having to worry about purchase or maintenance, is a good start towards greater respect for the air we breathe. At present, there are ever more urban areas that entrust this service to companies that are able to develop apps which allow for the use and return of bicycles via smartphone. Following a pilot phase in Hong Kong, the idea of free-floating bike sharing, or rather, without having to return bikes to specific stations, has become widespread in Turin, Rome, Florence, Paris, Brussels and Lille, and is now taking off all over the world. Via GPS, the app allows you to locate a bike, unblock it with a QR code printed on the bicycle and then, after having used it, return it wherever it is. Through the app, it is also possible to ensure the safety of the bike, thanks to a system of alarm sensors linked to the app, which keeps track of its position.

In Lisbon, Madrid and San Francisco, this advanced bike-sharing service is already available for e-bikes too, and this brings us to note another fundamental aspect in favour of sustainable mobility. Using bicycles with pedal assistance to move easily around urban centres or for shorter routes may really be the right choice in order to give up polluting means of transport once and for all. Always using bikes for medium to short range journeys would already be a good result. Making it a way of actively improving the quality of the air too would become the discovery of the century! Some have already begun to think about devices that allow the opportunity to effectively help the environment and the pleasure of riding to be combined. This is the case with a bicycle prototype called the Smog Free Bicycle. It has been proposed by a Dutch design studio specialised in sustainable mobility that will fix an ioniser, capable of purifying the air by filtering particulates while pedalling, to the handlebars.

Without having to wait too long for future inventions, which activities have a real impact on air pollution? Do the environmentally friendly days that prevent car traffic in many cities during the cold season genuinely have a beneficial effect on air quality? To improve, efforts made must be continued and an element that has guided our daily choices up until now must be renounced: comfort.

What is the point of using a powerful car with high consumption if it is only needed for a few kilometres? Why choose agricultural products that require intensive farming of the land and long transportation to reach us if we can rely on smaller, local producers? Incentivising the use of alternative means of transport would bring about an improvement in the situation without a doubt. However, it should be supported via a series of concessions that effectively help those who choose to give up their cars.

To reiterate the point: every new year that begins is accompanied by good intentions for the future. Let’s choose at least one that concerns our air’s health, because making the first step is easier than it seems.

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