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Down to Earth

Bicycles: Riding out of lockdown

DOWN TO EARTH
DOWN TO EARTH © FRANCE 24

Transport via two wheels is cheap, clean and allows mass travel while maintaining safe distances. From Bogotá to Berlin, cities around the world are betting on bicycles to get around once coronavirus lockdowns begin to ease.

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Colombia's capital is considered tête de la course (in the lead), being the first city to spot the potential of bicycles during the health crisis. In mid-March, an overnight appearance of traffic barriers sectioned off more than 20 kilometres of roads for bike use, a total which has now reached over 100 kilometres.

Dozens of other cities are in close pursuit. Berlin has doubled the width of its bike lanes to make sure the influx of new cyclists can socially distance; while Vancouver, Madrid, Auckland, London and Mexico City are just a few examples of the places either expanding their lanes, suspending bicycle-sharing fares, or closing some roads to cars.

In France, the government has offered €50 per person for bike repairs to boost cycling. The crisis has also accelerated an existing project known as RER Velo or RER V, a network of 650km of protected bike lanes that mirror the routes of the RER train lines. The idea is to connect the centre of Paris with key suburbs and prevent a complete paralysis of road networks.

An opportunity for the long term

Mathieu Chassignet is an engineer with ADEME, the French agency charged with overseeing the ecological transition. He believes the current changes, while initially temporary, will endure. 

 

Chassignet told FRANCE 24: "Often cycling needs an exceptional event to develop. We saw it in December during the strikes in Paris when the number of bikes multiplied by three on some days even though it was bad weather... I'm convinced a lot of people will start cycling and that this episode will leave a mark in the history of the development of cycling in France."

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