First aired on The Eyeopener (07/03/12)
When it comes to commuting in Canadian cities, cars remain king, but Calgary's Mikael Colville-Andersen hopes to someday see the bicycle as the favoured mode of transportation.
Colville-Andersen, who blogs about biking and recently published the book Cycle Chic
, has returned to his home city after living in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he, like a lot of citizens there, used a bicycle to get around.
The cycling enthusiast says there is a popular perception in Canadian cities like Calgary that bikes are for kids, sportsters or activists.
"I think when you [bike] here in Calgary, you're making a statement," he said on The Eyeopener.
"You're standing on a soapbox, you are declaring to the world that you are environmentally friendly, and you're an avid cyclist and you're a proud member of a subculture. In Copenhagen, we don't have any cyclists, we just have a lot of bicycle users, people who happen to use the bike to get around...it's just part of daily life."
His book Cycle Chic
is an attempt to show cycle cynics that biking can be part of the modern lifestyle. It contains numerous photos of cyclist commuters from around the world, from Bogotá to San Francisco, wearing business suits or office-appropriate attire, going to and from work or the store. Colville-Andersen argues that you don't need custom-made carbon fibre bikes or snug Lycra bike shorts to join the cycle club. In fact, the writer says that bikes were a common way to get around for decades, until the 1950s automobile boom drastically changed our lifestyle.
"We've seen an entire generation with the perception of cycling being sport or recreation and not much else. They've forgotten this image of regular citizens, citizen cyclists, just using the bike as part of their daily lives."
While the benefits of commuting on bicycle are fairly well known (i.e., physical exercise, saving money on gas and parking), Colville-Andersen constantly hears arguments against it, often about how many Canadian cities are too snowy and cold in the winter to bike around safely or comfortably. He doesn't buy it though. He points out that European cities like Copenhagen and Trondheim, Norway, have high rates of cyclists even though it snows several months of the year there. Montreal is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world despite frigid winters.
"Not everybody in the world is going to ride a bike in the winter but it is possible," he said.
In the end, Colville-Andersen believes the biggest hurdle in encouraging people to embrace cycling as their main mode of transportation isn't necessarily the weather, it's city planning. Without a doubt, since the 1950s, cities and towns have been planned with cars in mind. But the increase in the popularity of biking since the addition of bike shares and bike lanes in cities like Paris and Montreal suggests that people are open to the idea of leaving their car behind.
"If you make the bicycle the quickest way to get from point A to B in a city, any city, people will ride bikes."