Giro d’Italia promotes top class cycling infrastructure

Giro d’Italia promotes top class cycling infrastructure

Giro d’Italia promotes top class cycling infrastructure

Sanremo bike path


Sanremo bike path


The Grande Partenza of the 98th Giro d’Italia, to be celebrated on May 9, 2015, will cross over into a territory still largely unexplored by top-notch pro road cycling: bike paths.

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An increasing variety of terrains are being tested by the tyres of the planet’s best riders, much to the delight of fans worldwide. Cobblestones, tidal paths and dirt mountain roads are crowd-pleasers for Grand Tour aficionados. However, what Sanremo has in store for riders and supporters is breaking new ground, and will ideally reconcile two worlds traditionally many miles apart on the broad cycling spectrum: pros and adepts of bike tourism.

The inaugural stage of the three-week race will be an 18-km team time trial on the Ponente Ligure bike path, one of the longest in the Mediterranean area. The bike path was built on the former coastal route of the Italian State Railways between Ospedaletti and San Lorenzo al mare, which fell into disuse and was relocated in 2001. The route was redeveloped by a government-owned corporation called Area24, and the first paths were finished in 2008.

What a Grand Tour can do for cycle tourism

While one cannot say that the path was built thanks to the Giro alone, it is undeniable that the popularity of theCorsa Rosa significantly contributes to the improvement of the touring experience for cyclists choosing Liguria, the Italian region that is home to Sanremo.

The bond between Giro d’Italia organiser RCS Sport and this ground-breaking bike facility is a tight one. The 2014 Milano-Sanremo (another RCS event), saw the unveiling of the “Milano-Sanremo Gallery”. The joint project redeveloped a former railway tunnel, allowing for the final completion of the cycle path. The tunnel (photo below by RCS Sport) is a unique “ride-through” museum; 100 of the best pictures from the classic monument race are on display, and pink road markings include some of the fans’ most memorable tweets about the race.

Hosting one of the world’s major sporting events is a push for road maintenance. Safety and comfort must be at the highest for the race day – and everyday cyclists keep benefitting from the improvements long after the event is gone.

The global reach of the Giro will promote the Liguria region among cyclists worldwide. State-of-the-art bike paths, strategically placed near transport hubs to ensure inter-modality, attract cyclists to its shores and villages. Tourism is indeed a crucial driver of the region’s economy, with an estimated 61.3 million visitors per year producing an economic impact of EUR 5.5b. Bike facilities can draw more tourists… and encourage them to spend more money. A2007 study on the tourist expenditures generated by the presence of recreational bike trails has found evidence of cost-effectiveness of the facility with regards to the proceeds for local businesses. Hotels and businesses in Liguria are on top of it: conscious of the opportunities created by the bike path, they advertise their proximity to it as an extra perk for their customers.

Millions of Euros invested

At the end of 2011, EUR 200,000 were unlocked for investments on cycling infrastructure in Liguria, a region of 1.5 million people. It was only the beginning. In the summer of 2013, EUR 5.1m (3.5 from the State, 1.6 from the EU through regional funds) were allocated to a series of cycling networks.

“Our goal is to complete a single cycle path connecting the two extremities of the region”, declared President Claudio Burlando during the presentation of the Grand Départ last summer. It would be a business-savvy move: aBritish study has found that extending the length of cycle paths is likely to lead to greater tourist expenditures in the territories involved, especially in rural areas, thanks to the lengthened “cycling-time” of travellers. This seems well aligned with the goal of preserving rural areas from dying out – surely a concern for the region with the oldest population in the country.

GoPro footage of a cycling stroll along the path – with an on-the-go interview (in Italian) with the CEO of Area24 – is available here.

RCS – committed in a number of other social responsibility initiatives to get kids active and protect the environment – is also looking into intensifying its bonds with national cycling advocates. This began in 2012 when the event organisers sat down to a round table with national cycling Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). Albeit in need of continuity, the liaison offers ample growth potential, and local cycling advocates are calling for a strengthened role of Italian Cycling Federation (FCI) in “making cities fit for cyclists”.

Philadelphia, an all-round cycling city

Philadelphia, an all-round cycling city

Philadelphia, an all-round cycling city

Bike lanes in Philadelphia
Bike lanes in Philadelphia

Two pieces of news in November 2014 made Philadelphia stand out in its quest to being a great American bicycling city.

First came the announcement of the elevation of status of the Philadelphia’s Parx Casino Cycling Classic. The professional race (one of the few internationals offering equal prize purses to men and women) will now be part of the UCI Women’s Professional Road Cycling Series (the 2015 rebranding of the World Cup series) and the only United States stopover for the series.

Then the creation of the “Philadelphia Bicycle Advocacy Board” made the headlines in cycling advocacy circles. A brainchild of Mayor Michael A. Nutter, the commission was established “to promote bicycling among Philadelphians and on public policies.”

These two significant steps are part of a strategy to bolster the city’s reputation as a cyclists’ haven.

Hosting cycling events to boost local cycling culture

In Philadelphia, major events and everyday cycling go hand in hand and benefit everyone. Pro races looking for visibility and fan-bases take advantage of the favourable cycling environment of the city, while public administrators can leverage on the surge in popularity of the cycle sport to promote active forms of transport.

The best example of this synergy was probably Copenhagen’s status as UCI Bike City from 2008 to 2011. Over this period the city hosted a series of international UCI BMX, track, road and para-cycling events, encouraging inhabitants to take an interest in the sport while providing racers with a supportive, competent “city climate” to compete in.

A more recent example was the Prudential Ride London, supported by the Mayor of London and the local business community and represented by the city’s promotional company London & Partners. This event was a successful blend of professional, mass participation and everyday cycling, contributing to the tremendous rise of cycling in Britain.

Richmond, Virginia, host of the 2015 UCI Road World Championships, is also doing its homework, using one of cycling’s pinnacle events to positively influence local cycling policies and transport patterns.

“The city of Philadelphia is poised to emerge as one of the nation’s great cycling cities, and we want to increase the ways in which we are already encouraging bicycling,” said Mayor Nutter.

Informing policies with cycling evidence

The Bicycle Advocacy Board has the task of “advising the Mayor on ways to promote and protect recreational and professional cycling in the City of Philadelphia”. The group encompasses several representatives from the private sector, in particular the bike and industries.

Public-private partnerships are indeed crucial in Philadelphia. Encouraging private sector support of cycling, especially among employers, is part of the city’s “cycling marketing mix”. Last summer, Nutter travelled to Paris for a trade mission aimed at building alliances in cycling. Firmly convinced that “cycling is also about overall economic impact on metro regions”, he was accompanied by local business leaders on his European expedition.

Mayor Nutter (below right) takes pride in Philadelphia’s bike-commuting figures. The city ranks first among America’s 10 largest cities in this respect, with a modal share of 2.3% (and peaks of 5.5% and 5.3% in the Southeast and Centre boroughs respectively).

The city transport policies are informed by the documentation produced by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGP), the tireless local cycling advocacy group, whose Executive Director, Alex Doty, sits on the city’s cycling advocacy board.

The BCGP conducts annual bike counts to obtain a statistical perspective on cycling’s modal share in the city – and it is on the rise. Between 2005 and 2013 cycling increased by 260%.

BCGP’s research also showed that local cyclists are willing to go out of their shortest way to work or education, if it means riding on streets with bike lanes. In addition, “streets with buffered bike lanes carry 78% more bicyclists than streets with standard lanes”, and 131% more than streets with no bike infrastructure at all, says BCGP’s 2014 “Bike PHL Facts” report (available here).

The Mayor has always bought into this “build-it-and-they-will-come” approach. The city now has more than 500 miles of bike lanes, and a new bike-share scheme is due to be launched in spring 2015.

By creating the Bicycle Advocacy Board, Nutter – whose second and final mandate will come to an end in 2015 – has built “something that has the legs to continue to do that work beyond this administration”, in the words of BCGP’s Doty.

Of particular interest is the Coalition’s work in favour of women’s cycling. In a city where the percentage of women bicycle commuters is higher than in the rest of the country (33% vs. 24%), a specific campaign (Women Bike PHL) is run to shrink the gender gap in bicycling. To do this, Women Bike PHL organises classes on “urban riding basics”, mechanics workshops and social rides.

Hosting such a prestigious women’s professional event on the home ground is certainly another means towards gender equality on the bike lanes of Philly.

Photo credit: Kyle Gradinger

Bogotá’s bike paths bring better mobility

Bogotá’s bike paths bring better mobility

Bogotá’s bike paths bring better mobility

Bike path in Colombian capital of Bogotá
Bike path in Colombian capital of Bogotá

As well as ciclovía, which gives millions of people weekly access to car free roads, Bogotá has a second major bike-related gem: ciclorutas. This is one of the most extensive networks of bike paths in the world, sporting around 300 km of segregated roads for bikes.

Ciclorutas provide people with a transport alternative that is safe and affordable – two attributes that are particularly important for this urban settlement of 7.6 million people with a record income inequality.

Ciclorutas were developed during the tenures of visionary mayors. The alcaldes who administered Bogotá between late 90es and early 2000s, like Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa, were sensitive to sustainable transport, the promotion of physical activity and the well-being of the population regardless of their social standing

Thanks to these visions, between 300,000 and 400,000 bicycle trips are made every day on the network, a good many of them by citizens in lower-income areas. According to a 2013 study, 85% of ciclorutas users in Bogotá have a monthly income of $487 or less, with a striking 83% not owning a motorized vehicle. Ciclorutas are a means to the empowerment of these people.

At the end of the Peñalosa mandate, as many as 40% of Bogotanos rated his administration as “excellent”.

While catering for mobility needs, ciclorutas can be seen as serving two social purposes.

Health promotion

Ciclorutas enable low-income citizens to meet the recommended levels of physical activity (for adults, 150 or more minutes of moderate activity per week) simply by using a bike for transport. A US census found that people from households with incomes below $15,000 are three times more likely to live a sedentary lifestyle than people from households with incomes above $50,000. They are also much more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes or asthma, to be obese, and to be at risk for health problems related to lack of exercise. Living in low socioeconomic status areas and communities is a clear barrier to physical activity. Among the causes is poor access to park or recreational facilities. With Bogotá being no exception to these patterns, ciclorutas have a positive impact on public health. Supportive social and physical environments are vital to motivate larger numbers of low-income people to lead more active lifestyles.

More work, however, needs to be done to increase the safety perception. 9 out of 10 ciclorutas users are male, and 30% still feel unsafe on their bikes. Safety fears are also a deterrent when it comes to physical activity.

Social integration

People with low incomes typically have longer and costlier commutes to work than those in a higher income bracket.

The design of the bicycle path network in Bogotá takes this into consideration, aiming to ease their journey across the city. The facility has been planned so as to reach the wards with the highest demand for transport – in particular those located the farthest from the city centre, in the Southern zones. The system has arteries, feeder routes and sub-feeders. Its paths connect with the city’s bus service, the TransMilenio System allowing citizens to combine cycling and public transport, thus reducing their dependence on private vehicles.

After conducting an accessibility study, however, a Dutch researcher has concluded that ciclorutas still needs to be improved and expanded to provide a higher level of accessibility throughout the whole city.

Extensive education campaigns have been conducted in order to change the perception that bikes are inferior to motor vehicles. There is still a further need to invest in education, supervision and safety but Bogotá is well on the way to making cycling a viable transport alternative. Cities in other developing countries can follow suit…

Colombia’s car free roads set example and save lives

Colombia’s car free roads set example and save lives

Colombia’s car free roads set example and save lives

Every Sunday Bogotá closes roads to cars
Every Sunday Bogotá closes roads to cars

Colombian cycling aficionados will not easily forget 2014. With his win in the Giro d’Italia, Nairo Quintana gave to his country its most prestigious victory in road cycling so far. The country’s only other Grand Tour success dates back 27 years when Lucho Herrera’s claimed victory in the Vuelta a España 1987.  Alongside Quintana, other Colombians such as Carlos Betancur (winner of Paris-Nice), David Arredondo and Rigoberto Uran (triumphing in two of the toughest stages of the Giro) sit at the tip of an iceberg of passion.

The country is in love with cycling. A share of the credit for this has to go to the geography: with its altitude plateaus and never-ending climbs, Colombians have what it takes to shape great cyclists. The nation’s relationship with the bike, however, runs deeper. Cycling for leisure or transport is a regular activity in Colombia, and is encouraged by the public sector’s initiatives, the most famous of which is the ciclovía.

Ciclovías are regular car-free days that put long segments of a city’s streets off-limits to motorised transport. Launched in Colombia in the seventies, they are now popular – often known as “Open Streets” – all over the world. Public recreational programmes such as Ciclovías have proven to be cost-effective from a public health point of view, as they help participants meet recommended levels of physical activity.

Millions take advantage of Bogotá’s car-free streets

Ciclovía is Spanish for “bike path”. It’s nothing revolutionary on the surface.  But Colombia’s capital city Bogotá has attached a new meaning to these two words. Ciclovías are regular car-free days during which sizeable portions of the city are liberated from motorised transport and 100% dedicated to citizens who can run, cycle, skate – or just wander around and socialize.

Bogotá’s ciclovía offers more than 90 km entirely protected from cars, with marshals, safety assistants, bike mechanics, sports instructors and guides (all paid) on hand to make the experience enjoyable for everyone. The first experiments date back to the seventies, and the programme is now one of Bogotá’s flagship initiatives. The city has the world’s most impressive ciclovía programme, with 72 events held each year (every Sunday plus holidays).  Each time, between 1 and 1.5 million people take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the capital’s roads unencumbered by cars.  The amazing success of the ciclovías has inspired dozens of other cities worldwide, especially in the Americas, to set up similar projects as in Mexico City (below).



If you’re going to do it, do it well

So what does it take to put on an effective ciclovía?

study has shown that buy-in from community partners, merchants, residents and city agencies is vital for the quality and the sustainability of an Open Street programme.

Large professional cycling events are therefore a perfect occasion to launch a public recreational programme, leveraging on the drive and on the togetherness that major sport events create in local business communities.

Richmond, Virginia, which will host the UCI World Road Championships 2015, has an annual ciclovía, “RVA Streets Alive”, where roads are closed to vehicles to enable cyclists and pedestrians to move freely in a festival atmosphere.

The Toronto-based non-profit organization “8-80 Cities” has developed a manual for ciclovía implementation as well as other resources to disseminate knowledge about the project. 8-80 is led by Gil Peñalosa, one of the world’s gurus of city planning for people’s well being and former Commissioner of Parks, Sports and Recreation in Bogotá. He is aware that certain local administrators may be reticent to organise such events because of concerns about disruption to businesses, road closures and angry voters: “Change is hard, everywhere; but you must do what is right, not what is easy,” advises Mr Peñalosa. “General interest must prevail over the wishes of a few individuals. The benefits go further than recreation for all: they include improvements to mental and physical health, the environment and economic development.”

To get a feeling of what a ciclovía is like, check out this 2007 short movie by Street Films.

Savings potential

Still not convinced?  Detractors of the ciclovía movement just might be won over when looking at the public health and social benefits of physical activity for the masses.

Academic studies have shown that ciclovías give positive returns on investment, with the health benefits of increasing activity far outweighing the costs of implementation.

Another paper has found that those taking part in ciclovías do not only meet physical activity recommendations, but also have “higher levels of social capital”, defined as a set of “networks, norms and social trust that facilitate coordination and cooperation for mutual benefit.”  And, as other research has shown, “higher social capital perception is associated with well-being and perceived health” as reflected in the faces of these young women in Jakarta during one of the Indonesian capital’s car-free days.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “rapid unplanned urbanization” is one of the major influencing trends of global health. A US study has shown that lower-income and ethnic minority areas are less likely to have access to recreational facilities where they can engage in free-of-cost physical activity. Programmes like Ciclovíashave the potential to bridge this access gap: according to a study conducted in San Francisco, ciclovías participants represent the city’s ethnic minorities; Other researchers suggest that Bogotá participants come from low and middle income groups, in ratios that represent the city’s society.

Health systems under pressure

The progressive ageing of the population, caused by longer life expectancy coupled with sinking fertility rates, contains a number of financial challenges for governments, particularly for their health systems.

This demographic change means a shift in the leading causes of disease and death. Chronic and degenerative diseases (mainly coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, colon cancer, breast cancer and depression) are on the rise throughout the world, regardless of the income level.

According to WHO, by 2030 chronic diseases will account for more than one-half of the disease burden in low-income countries and more than 75% in middle-income ones.

Chronic diseases result in costs for the community, both direct (health care expenditure) and indirect (lost economic productivity).

In addition, the WHO estimates that physical inactivity ranked fourth of 19 mortality risk factors globally.

Cycling’s role in disease prevention

It is widely acknowledged that physical activity is key in preventing chronic disease. The WHO and the US government suggest that 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise) are enough to improve in the adults cardio-respiratory fitness, muscular strength, metabolic health and bone health.

150 minutes a week can easily be reached by integrating cycling to work or education in a person’s daily routine.

A 2012 study published on The Lancet has found that if people in urban England and Wales cycled and walked as much as Copenhageners do, the National Health Service could save around £17 billion (CHF 26b, EUR 21b) within twenty years.

But what would you do if you were the Mayor of a 7.6m-people megalopolis, with the highest income inequality in South America and soaring rates of traffic-related mortality?

Setting up a ciclovía is probably a good answer. And more food for thought…. The Colombian capital of Bogatá is also known for its cicloruta – one of the world’s most extensive bike path networks (300 km). Learn here how this infrastructure is helping 200,000 people get around each day in Bogotá.

Photo credits: Mexico City (Justin Swan), Jakarta (killerturnip)

The value of current cyclists revealed

The value of current cyclists revealed

The value of current cyclists revealed

The value of current cyclists revealed

The value of current cyclists revealed

Calculations carried out by Newcycling, Newcastle’s cycling campaign, using HEAT, an internationally acclaimed economic assessment tool for walking and cycling, show that the contribution that current city commuter cyclists make is worth over £3 million to the city of Newcastle every year.

Using the latest Census 2011 data and feeding it into the economic assessment tool, the campaign group calculates that Newcastle’s 3,300 commuter cyclists save the city over £3.3 million in costs simply by living healthier and more productive lives.

Last year’s Get Britain Cycling report states that at least £10 per head per year is needed – that call was also reiterated by the Transport Committee last month. This rate must rise with time to Dutch investment levels of £20 plus. For Newcastle with a population of 300,000 this means that a minimum £3 million should be invested in cycling improvements per year; incidentally the sum the Cycle City Ambition Fund provides till 2015.

This investment is also vital to provide better infrastructure for the rising number of people cycling, so more people are attracted to cycling and cyclists stay safe, and so creating a virtuous circle. With current cyclists saving the city that exact same cost, the value of present pedallers becomes clear. In a sustainable economy, valuing longterm trends and internalised costs, it is easy see the high level of contribution that current bike commuting makes to the city.

Katja Leyendecker, group chair, says: “Valuing cyclists is so important. We already make a massive contribution to society and city life and we want to see that recognised. As every cyclist knows our travel choice is undervalued – cycling can be a struggle. We all have seen and experienced bad and downright dangerous road layouts, abuse by drivers and inadequate implementation of improvements plans and even removal of perfectly good cycling infrastructure.

“With £3.3 million saved and 3,300 city cyclists, you could say that every commuting cyclist chucks in £1,000 into society’s piggybank every year just by cycling to work. That’s a fiver for each 6-mile commute they make. We really must value cyclists more.”

HEAT tool
Get Britain Cycling
Transport Committee…

Cycle Coventry

Cycle Coventry

Cycle Coventry

Cycle Coventry banner

Cycle Coventry is a three year project which aims to improve facilities for cyclists and pedestrians in Coventry. The project will see more than £6 million invested between 2012 and 2015 to create a network of cycle routes that will link residential areas such as Henley, Tile Hill, Foleshill and Canley with jobs and education and local services. The project will use grant funding secured following a local bid led by the City Council and a regional bid led by Centro to the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund. The City Council secured £3.5 million and Centro secured £33 million of which £3.4 million will be spent in Coventry.

Cycle Coventry will connect existing pedestrian and cycle routes together, improve or create new routes to avoid busy roads and provide new crossing facilities. New route signage will be installed to ensure everyone can access the routes easily and new and secure cycle parking will be installed in local areas, railway stations and at employment sites to make cycling even easier.

It’s not just about the routes though – Cycle Coventry will also provide practical information and support to encourage more people, of all ages, to enjoy the health and recreational benefits of cycling. New cycle maps will encourage people to explore more of the city by bike. Bike maintenance and cycle training for adults will encourage people who might not have been on a bike for years to have a go.

The project will focus on the southwest and northeast of the city covering the residential areas of Canley, Tile Hill, Henley, Foleshill and the city centre.

Download the original bid document and a map of the proposed route.

Whats your council doing for cycle safety?