Depending on where you live, if you think “bike,” you might not think “sustainable transportation.”
Like many, you might associate “bike” with “recreation” or even “toy,” which is probably why many people don’t see them as legitimate forms of sustainable transportation. By extension, many people don’t make the leap to seeing sustainable transportation, in the form of a bike, as worth the investment. Of course, if you’re going to buy a bike for your kid, one might not spend more than a couple hundred dollars.
On the other hand, a real bike, that is, a quality bike that could be considered a viable form of sustainable transportation, needs to be comfortable, capable, and durable. These are aspects that a department store bike isn’t going to satisfy. You’re going to have to look for something that costs quite a bit more, at least ten times more, depending on the features you have in mind as the ideal bike. Then, if you got this dream bike in mind, would you go out and buy it?
As it turns out, people still have a hard time seeing the supposedly humble bike as worth that kind of investment. Sustainable Sweden, the Swedish Energy Department, and seven towns and cities in western Sweden are working to turn that notion on its head. The “Test Cyclists” program offers five families each in seven locales, a total of 35 families, loaner bikes that meet their transportation needs. The six-month program requires the participants to replace their typical car trips with bike trips at least three days per week.
Aside from questionnaires at the end of the program, in October, each family will have their medical exams compared at the beginning and end of the program. There’s only two catches to the program. First, the bikes are considered loaners, which means that each family has to give it back at the end of the program. Second, and perhaps more importantly, what does this teach the rest of us about sustainable transportation? Will others learn from these experiences? Perhaps there are other ways of encouraging bike usage, such as getting rid of cars and implementing better bike access.
Image © Trek Bikes