Finland’s bicycle highway is the path to healthy cities

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bicycle highway 2While newer innovations in car technology may be constantly grabbing headlines, some of us may tend to forget that the bicycle is one form of transport that continues to exist even up to this day. Older than the motor car by a few decades, the bicycle assumed its basic design by the late nineteenth century.

At some point, bicycles were even thought to be the transport vehicles of the future. But with the invention of the cars, the bicycle seemed to have lost its popularity among the public.

But with more cities thinking smarter and healthier these days, many people realize that bicycles are becoming an increasingly preferred choice of transport. Compared with motor vehicles, it’s cleaner, cheaper, and in many instances, faster.

It’s no wonder that some innovative and healthy cities such as Helsinki have created highways for cyclists and pedestrians to promote the use of bicycle as mode of transport. By creating simple and innovative solutions such as a bicycle highway, these cities not only promote green living, but also encourage the public to attain a healthier lifestyle by using bicycles as a form of exercise.

 

Bicycle Friendly Infrastructure

 

Julia Belluz of Vox.com writes about the Baana in the Finnish capital. A converted railway track constructed in 2012, Baana or “fast lane” allows you to easily and safely go to many key points in the city without enduring car exhaust or having to worry about car accidents. It was part of the efforts of Finland to revive bicycle-friendly infrastructure in Helsinki. Other capitals in Europe such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam have long been advocating for the use of cycling as a mode of transport, Bellus writes, and major cities around the world have also been pushing for the creating of bike lanes and affordable bike rental systems as a way of reducing air pollution as well as improving public health.

All over the world, the medical community has been urging policymakers to create and promote healthy cities where the infrastructure allow the public to take “active transport”—which basically encourages them to walk and cycle to travel.

In June last year, the respected medical journal The Lancet also wrote that climate change could erase 50 years of public health and development gains. Calling it as “the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century”, the journal essentially called for the promotion and sustainability of cities that not only minimize greenhouse gas emissions but also encourage the public to become healthier.

 

Recognition and Accolades

 

bicycle highway 1It’s no wonder that Baana is getting recognition and accolades for its simple and innovative approach to improve public health and reduce air pollution.

In 2014, it received a special mention from the European Prize for Urban Public Space, an initiative of the Centre of Contemporary Culture of Barcelona. The Prize aims to recognize and honor the public character of urban spaces as well as their capability for improving social cohesion. It is the only one of its kind in Europe.

In a world where climate change is an ever-looming threat, cities should consider creating innovative approaches such as creating bicycle highways to reduce their environmental footprint as well as improve the health of their residents.

 

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Ivan Legaspi

Ivan Legaspi

Ivan Legaspi is a Filipino journalist with over ten years experience.

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