The book “City Cycling” appears in a photo taken during a session in Great Britain’s House of Commons last week where a motion to “Get Britain Cycling” gained momentum, garnering 125 supportive signatures from members of Parliament. 

“City Cycling,” recently published by MIT Press, is coedited by Ralph Buehler, assistant professor in the School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech National Capital Region, and John Pucher, professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University.

Last week’s Parliamentary session is the first of six inquiries that will examine the barriers which are preventing more people from cycling in the United Kingdom, where cycling makes up only two percent of all journeys, compared to 27 percent in the Netherlands and 18 percent in Denmark. Some European towns have more than 50 percent of all journeys made by bike.

The Early Day Motion 679 on Jan. 23 stated, “That this House notes that cycling benefits public health, the economy, the environment and quality of life; further notes the strength of public and parliamentary support for The Times newspaper’s Cities fit for Cycling campaign, and its backing for an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group on Getting Britain Cycling; further notes calls from national cycling organisations for a cycling action plan to increase cycling among people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, and to reduce the actual and perceived risks of cycling, whether for day-to-day travel, outdoor recreation or sport; and calls on the Government to provide leadership, resources and Cabinet-level co-ordination across Government departments and external partners to produce and implement such a plan as part of our Olympic legacy, including measures to strengthen road traffic law and its enforcement, improve cycling conditions and perceptions of safety, integrate cycling with public transport, promote cycling through schools, colleges, workplaces, community organisations and beyond, and embed cycling into the heart of transport, planning and other relevant policies.”

“Get Britain Cycling” is the result of a campaign launched by The Times, which conducted an online survey asking 14,000 people what could be done to encourage people to cycle. More than 25 percent suggested segregated cycle lanes, 23 percent called for simpler and safer junctions and 16 percent wanted 20 mph speed limits and road surface improvements.

As Parliament moves forward on its motion, there are plans for five more sessions to be held through early March to get the views of experts, government departments, and cycling luminaries. A report with recommendations will be published in mid-April.

“Successful promotion of city cycling depends on coordinating infrastructure, programs, and government policies, so it is heartening to see that Great Britain’s leaders are taking these issues seriously,” Buehler said.

"City Cycling" reports on cycling trends and policies in countries and cities in North America, Europe, and Australia, and covers such topics as cycling safety, cycling infrastructure provisions including bikeways and bike parking, the wide range of bike designs and bike equipment, integration of cycling with public transportation, and promoting cycling for women and children. The book offers detailed examinations and illustrations of cycling conditions in different urban environments: small cities, large cities, and “megacities.” And it takes a closer look at how cities both with and without historical cycling cultures have developed cycling programs over time.

In the chapter, “International Overview: Cycling Trends in Western Europe, North America, and Australia,” Buehler and Pucher noted the following in regard to the United Kingdom:

  • The daily distance cycled per capita in the United Kingdom is 0.2 km compared to 1 km in Germany, 1.6 km in Denmark, and 2.5 km in the Netherlands.
  • The bike mode share in the United States and the United Kingdom is less than 2 percent, far lower than the 27 percent bike share of trips in the Netherlands, 18 percent in Denmark, and 10 percent in Germany.
  • Travel to work or school accounts for only 30 percent of all bike trips in the United Kingdom.
  • Women account for less than 30 percent of cyclists in the United Kingdom, compared to a country like Netherlands where women account for 56 percent of cyclists.
  • High levels of car ownership are not necessarily incompatible with high levels of cycling. For example, while Germany has 20 percent more cars per capita than the United Kingdom, the bike share of trips in Germany is ten times higher than in the United Kingdom.

“I had no prior knowledge that “City Cycling” would be noted in any way during the parliamentary session,” said Buehler. “Of course it is flattering to see the book used in British politics.”