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Cycling for health, environment and economy

Why not promote it as easy transportation for all in KV ?

The Nepal Weekly
June 21, 2022

By Purna N. Ranjitkar l

Bicycles are widely used for transportation, recreation, and sports. Throughout the world, bicycles are essential to moving people and goods in areas where there are few automobiles. Globally, there are twice as many bicycles as automobiles, and they outsell automobiles three to one. The Netherlands, Denmark, and Japan actively promote bicycles for personal transportation to a limited distance. In the United States, bike paths have been constructed in many parts of the country, and bicycles are encouraged by the United States government as an alternative to automobiles.

It is to recall that bicycle was invented 200 years ago in Germany and first bicycle brought to Nepal 120 years ago.

During those days in Nepal, this was a ‘luxury’ that only the Ranas were able to use. Over the time, this became an affordable good device for many people. They rode it in an attractive style. The residents of Terai plains still prefer bicycles as a must to own device for their daily life.

The development of automobile and being easily accessed to many, use of bicycle drastically decreased. Moreover, the users shifted to machine drive devices in Nepal keeping in view increased ‘risks from accidents’, ‘threat from theft’ and need of physical strength to tackle the ups and down terrains. But the machine drive devices consume imported fossil fuels which pollute causing harms to human health and environment. That also drains a huge amount of money to buy the fossil fuels.

The world is now preferring non-polluting mobility. So as electric transportation is developed and started replacing fossil fuel driven vehicles. Bicycles also have been powered by battery backup.

The electric bicycles also known as ebikes are featured of pedalling for health benefits and electric drive mode for easy to climb the inclining roads. In the given situation, pedaling and electric drive both are provisioned for the riders comfort in an electric bicycle.

Actually, an electric bicycle is a motorized bicycle with an integrated electric motor used to assist propulsion. Many kinds of e-bikes are available worldwide, but they generally fall into two broad categories: bikes that assist the rider’s pedal-power and bikes that add a throttle, integrating moped-style functionality. Both retain the ability to be pedalled by the rider and are therefore not electric motor cycles.

Recent studies on the environment impact of ebikes vs other forms of transportation found that ebikes are: (1) 18 times more energy efficient than an SUV, (2) 13 times more energy efficient than a sedan, (3) 6 times more energy efficient than rail transit, (4) and, of about equal impact to the environment as a conventional bicycle, and more.

Cycling is a good way to control or reduce weight, as it raises rider’s metabolic rate, builds muscle and burns body fat. If you’re trying to lose weight, cycling must be combined with a healthy eating plan. Cycling is a comfortable form of exercise and you can change the time and intensity – it can be built up slowly and varied to suit the rider. Moreover, health experts say that cycling can help to protect rider from serious diseases such as stroke, heart attack, some cancers, depression, diabetes, obesity and arthritis. Riding a bike is healthy, fun and a low-impact form of exercise for all ages as well.

However, there are a few disadvantages of bicycling – to be balanced by the rider in order to remain upright, lack of safety measures i.e. protection in crashes in comparison to motor vehicles, often longer travel time (except in densely populated areas), vulnerability to weather conditions, difficulty in transporting passengers, and the fact that a basic level of fitness is required for cycling moderate to long distance.

Coming back to local initiatives in Nepal, Lalitpur Metropolitan City is developing cycle lanes in the main traffic routes. It has plans to expand to some other routes. Environment activists are expecting that other local governments including Kathmandu Metropolitan City will follow the LMC initiatives soon in future.

There are a number of private importers and vendors who supply very good electric bicycles fit for any terrain. They also convert the electric bicycles according to riders’ choice and comforts. Some enthusiasts voluntarily organise cycling promotion activities in the Kathmandu Valley with view to generate awareness on benefits of bicycling and fun while riding on challenging terrains too.

Now the time has come to consider promoting bicycling in Nepal especially in the urban settings keeping in view the reasons for the benefits of bicycle riding. Categorically the benefits are linked to health, environment and economy.

The Kathmandu Valley residents may prefer electric bicycles as their daily transportation device. People from any part of the valley can reach the opposite part within an hour with pedalling and also shifting to electric mode.

This will help maintain better use of roads, reduce vehicular air pollution, reduce use of fossil fuel, and independency in mobility. Moreover, it provides independent transportation at a nominal cost.

The riders and people who would like to ride bicycles or electric bicycles still looking for reliable anti-theft mechanism as such vehicles may be disappeared from someplace where the rider stand the bike. Another fear is to stay safe from vehicular accidents. Insurance and GPS tracking may be supportive but legal assurances and provisions could boost encouragement for bicycle riding as safe and confident for all.