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|See also the Cycling category.|
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Cycling, bicycling or biking refers to using a bicycle as a means of personal transport or the transport of other people/cargo, for electricity generation, or as means of recreation, or sport.
Benefits of cycling
See Benefits of cycling.
Economic impact of cycling
Cycling offers various economic benefits:
- cycleways are cheaper than roads
- leads to better health, meaning lower medical costs and higher productivity
- leads to better physical health (obviously - if there is believed to be a safety problem which depends on the particular location, this has to be weighed up as well, as one factor).
- would be expected to lead to better mental health (less stressful, more enjoyable, plus the
- cycling is often quicker than driving, when traffic is heavy, leading to more
Alan Durning on the Sightline Institute blog offers his analysis: Wheels of Fortune (Bicycle Neglect #10)
Social impact of cycling
- Faces are visible and conversation is possible making it possible to connect with and possibly befriend other cyclists and even pedestrians, especially when meeting them on regular commuting or recreational routes.
- Exercise improves one's mental state.[verification needed]
Purpose of cycling
As a means of personal transport
Even areas with just footpaths bicycling is the most energy-efficient means of transport generally available. Bicycling at low to medium speeds (10-15 mph, 16-24 km/h), uses only the energy required to walk.
In both biological and mechanical terms, the bicycle is extraordinarily efficient. In terms of the amount of energy a person must expend to travel a given distance, investigators have calculated it to be the most efficient self-powered means of transportation. From a mechanical viewpoint, up to 99% of the energy delivered by the rider into the pedals is transmitted to the wheels, although the use of gearing mechanisms may reduce this by 10-15%. 
In terms of the ratio of cargo weight a bicycle can carry to total weight, it is also a most efficient means of cargo transportation.
An added bonus is that a bicycle can utilize gravity to go faster down hill and even partialy any counterpart hills.
As a means of transporting other people/cargo
Transporting other people
The Bicycle taxi or boda boda has become popular in Uganda and Kenya, they operate for hire from stands in towns, bus stops and market centres. The name boda boda is said to come from the time when the East African Community existed and there was free movement across the boarder between Uganda and Kenya. Travellers were offered transport to the boarder by bicycle-riders shouting ‘Border Border’ to attract passengers. Converting a bicycle to a taxi requires reinforced forks, stronger brakes, a passenger seat and footrests, and cushions. New seat designs enable woman to ride side-addle should help to improve access.
Although the work is hard, the operators can earn a living despite a lack of formal education.
The community transport organisation in Ndhiwa and The Kibos Cycle Taxi Association of
Kisumu, Western Kenya worked in conjunction with Practical Action East Africa to:
- enhance the safety of bicycle taxis
- provide a cycle lane along the Kibos road
- set up a mini-medical insurance scheme for passengers and operators
- provide a credit scheme and repair fund for the members
Extended cycle user Aloysius Fernando, cultivator of mainly plantains & peanuts, sells peanuts in nearby towns. With the extended cycle, he can now transport enough to meet demand (1200 packets as opposed to 400 packets on his original bicycle). With increased business earnings he began to cultivate a larger area of land and could hire a peanut shelling machine.
The bicycle is still expensive for poorer families in Africa and can cost between 20 to over 100 per cent of a rural household’s annual income. Therefore, transport needs to be supported by an affordable system of manufacture, supply, and repair.
Affordability is related to the availability of spare parts and repair services, which are sometime lacking in rural areas. Several projects have attempted to boost local economics by encouraging artisanal production of suitable transport and improve the local capabilities of metal workers to maintain and repair bicycles and other types of transport.
Many people choose not to cycle due to safety concerns. However, Alan Durning on the Sightline Institute blog argues that cycling is safer than people think - even safer than driving, when all health factors are taken into account (see the argument and analysis at Safe Streets (Bicycle Neglect #9). (No doubt this would vary a lot depending on the location and traffic conditions - Jakarta for example could be expected to be extremely dangerous for cyclists as well as pedestrians - certainly motorcyclists experience a shocking rate of death and injury).
Compare the effects on public health as well. An Australian study concluded that more people die of respiratory conditions due to air pollution from cars, than die from traffic accidents.[verification needed]
Another Australian study compared the exposure to pollution of various modes of transport - walking, driving, transit, and cycling. (what were the exact results? Was this a proper study or just one sample of each, for the What's Good for You? TV program?[Suggested project])
Of course, safety is much greater when wearing a helmet, and this is highly recommended. However, a UK study found that requiring people to wear helmets had resulted in a drop in the number of cyclists, and it was estimated that more people died due to low fitness (heart problems etc) than would have died if they'd been allowed to cycle without helmets.[verification needed] This suggests a more lenient policy - encouraging helmets, but not carrying out actions (in particular fines) that will discourage people from cycling if they hate helmets. Perhaps more comfortable helmets could be designed, as an option for the helmet-averse - safer than going bareheaded, but more likely to be worn.[Suggested project] Another idea might be to allow non-use of helmets on bike paths, but require them when cycling on the roads - though legal penalties should still be weighed carefully, lest cycling be discouraged.
Regardless of the actual safety of cyclists on the road, it seems obvious that safer and more pleasant cycling conditions would lead to more people cycling.
Footnotes and references
- Whether this is directly a community cost or purely borne by the individual depends on which country is being examined, whether there is a state-funded system.
- "Bicycle Technology", S.S. Wilson, Scientific American, March 1973
- "Johns Hopkins Gazette", 30 August, 1999
- "Bicycling Science", Frank R. Whitt, David G. Wilson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1982, ISBN 0-262-23111-5