Norwegian version

How to get more people to bicycle

Cyclists on electric bikes on a sunny summer day

Simple measures such as the use of electric bicycles, reduced speed limits and car parking restrictions can make it easier for people to choose bicycles over cars, argues Piatkowski in the book ‘Bicycle City: Riding the Bike Boom to a Brighter Future’.

“For example, the research shows that electric bicycles help many Americans to leave their cars at home and choose a bicycle instead. No one anticipated how important electric bicycles would become,” emphasises Piatkowski.

Everyone Piatkowski interviewed in the book referred to electric bikes as a game changer, and they are right, he believes. Electrification reduces barriers to cycling and makes e-bikes a viable alternative to cars for a significant portion of everyday trips.

“Electric bicycles are physically easier to use, and people are motivated to cycle longer. When it becomes easier to cycle a long distance, people are happy to do it. It also makes it easier for you to take the safest route to work, even if it is a bit longer.”

Facts about Daniel Piatkowski

Daniel Piatkowski is an associate professor in integrated spatial and transport planning at OsloMet. 

Before moving to Norway, he taught urban planning at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and Savannah State University. He has also worked in planning in Colorado and New Mexico.

Piatkowski has written many scientific articles and is already co-author of the book "Bicycling for Transportation: An Evidence-Base for Communities."

Overcoming cycling barriers

Bicycles, including e-bikes and electric cargo bikes, can replace cars to an even greater extent over short distances.

This can be done by overcoming even more barriers to cycling, which can make cities more welcoming to people of all ages and abilities.

Here, Piatkowski uses examples from Oslo. Although cycling is not as widespread in Oslo as in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, Oslo has also promoted cycling well through simple measures, for example by limiting car parking in central city areas and lowering speed limits.

In this way, driving becomes less attractive, and cycling more relevant. The result is that it will be easier for people to travel, especially in the city centre, and the streets and roads are much safer for everyone.

“These were cheap measures, and quickly after Oslo implemented them, fewer cyclists and pedestrians died in traffic.”

Portrait of Daniel Piatkowski

Associate Professor Piatkowski highlights Oslo as a world leader in reducing car dependency, but in Norway the city is more the exception than the rule. Photo: Sonja Balci, OsloMet

15-minute cities

There may also be talk of more advanced measures, such as building better physical cycling infrastructure in the city, building destinations that are close to each other, and perhaps developing a city where people can easily get to things by bike within 15 minutes.

Fifteen-minute cities, where people have everything they need within a 15-minute walking or cycling distance, have become much more relevant in recent years, for example in a city like Paris.

New cycling options are helping to make pedal-powered mobility a realistic, efficient option for many different people.

In the book, Piatkowski also argues that cycling as transport does not only belong in large, urban cities, but can also be done in suburbs and in rural areas.

Piatkowski encourages readers to change their perspective on cycling, showing that a successful cycling city is one where no one has to cycle, but anyone can.

“Car-light” cities

Piatkowski also makes a point of talking about “car-light” cities instead of car-free cities.
Obviously, some people will still need a car, and buses and trams will still be useful.

However, the advantage of bicycles, especially electric bicycles and electric cargo bikes, is that they can be used for many of the same purposes as cars, while being cheaper, faster, easier and greener. And they can take you to even more places.

Climate-friendly and health-promoting

Investing in cycle-friendly infrastructure can also provide a basis for good health and mental well-being and help deal with climate change.

By embracing cycling, local communities are taking an important step towards mitigating the climate crisis and creating more sustainable transit systems.

Piatkowski's book shows how quickly cycling increased during the coronavirus pandemic, and how it spurred major changes in urban mobility that make our cities more sustainable.

The demand for bicycles increased sharply, and there was a sudden need for space to move around outdoors, where viruses could not spread so easily.

Experiences from Lincoln and Oslo

Bringing together the latest research, interviews and case studies from around the world, Piatkowski provides information and inspiration to use bicycles as a catalyst to create a car-less future in cities of all sizes.

Piatkowski also draws on examples from his own experiences of living in such different cities as Lincoln in Nebraska and Oslo. In both cities, cycling has become more relevant.

Lincoln is a car-dependent city where it is often safest and easiest to drive for necessary errands, but it has also an impressive network of bike paths suitable for recreation, more than in many other American cities. Cycling has come more into focus, with better facilities for cycling in recent years.

Oslo too has historically been a car-dependent city, but from 2014 to 2020, cycling increased by 80 percent. The aim is not primarily to become a cycling city, but to become a less car-dependent and more “people-friendly” city. E-bikes have become popular not only because of reduced speed limits and parking restrictions, but also because the city has hilly terrain.

The new book ‘Bicycle City: Riding the Bike Boom to a Brighter Future’ was published in the United States on May 24, 2024, by the publisher Island Press.


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