Many cities have embraced expanded bike infrastructure as a green transportation solution which also allows people to safely get outside during the pandemic. Bike popularity has skyrocketed over the last year and for many communities, bicycles are also a vehicle for empowerment and independence.
In Germany, a group of volunteers launched #BIKEYGEES to welcome refugees, largely from Syria, and introduce them to their new neighborhoods with bike riding lessons. The group, started by Annette Krüger, offers free bicycle riding lessons in 15 locations around Berlin and Brandenburg. Anyone is welcome and the aim is to help people feel more at home in their community by letting them explore the city in a fun new way. The organization was awarded the German Bicycling Award in 2018 for its service to the community. Volunteer Greta Aigner calls the program “an improvement in independence, mobility, and security.”
Across the world, Los Angeles may be known as the city of big freeways and backed up traffic, but an organization called Sustainable Streets is encouraging residents to adopt cycling as a sustainable transportation method that would make the city more livable. Sustainable streets offer adult education courses on bike riding, bike path navigation, rules of the road, and basic maintenance. Residents in Los Angeles are exposed to 60 percent more vehicle pollution than the average Californian, but Sustainable Streets wants to get more people biking to create healthier air and redirect the massive amounts of space used for vehicle infrastructure to public parks and community centers.
In New York, nearly 900,000 residents regularly ride their bikes, but there is a disparity in terms of who has access to bicycles and bike infrastructure. Due to limited infrastructure and resources, biking is less popular among residents of color. Bike New York is on a mission to raise awareness of the racial disparity within the cycling community and increase access for Black, Indigenous, and POC cyclists. The organization hosts adult education courses as well as afterschool and summer programs for kids. They also advocate for improved bike infrastructure for marginalized communities like protected bike lanes.
Research has shown that cities with high-quality bicycle infrastructure have higher per capita GDPs, less traffic and pollution, and happier citizens. Biking isn’t just a zero-emissions transportation method, although that’s important, it also boosts health, independence, and mobility, especially among low-income and marginalized residents.