Major cities across the world are investing significant amounts to create dedicated cycle lanes and an environment for safe cycling – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cukx_BSQ0Ww. Some cities like Cambridge, Massachusetts even have busses with racks in front where cyclists can hang their cycles before boarding for an uphill trip and others like Minneapolis have metros which allow cyclists to board with their cycles and hang them on racks in the compartment at no additional cost – see https://www.metrotransit.org/bike-options. In these cities, cycling is an integral part of the public transportation system. It is probably high time for Mauritius to be inspired by such examples and for our policy makers come up with the kind of bold decisions that the current challenging context mandates.
Once implemented these decisions are likely to result in a range of significant benefits that go far beyond enhancing riders’ safety. Some of these are listed below:
Environment: less pollution, cleaner air, less noise.
Health: less respiratory problems, more regular physical exercise especially for people who otherwise lead sedentary lives and thus lower risks of heart problems, reduced risks of catching Covid-19 and other such infections as people would have an alternative to travelling in crowded and closed vehicles and be able to maintain social distancing. It is not surprising that some cities are going out of their way to promote cycling. Paris for instance offers a 50 Euro subsidy for bike repairs or tune-ups – see https://www.france24.com/en/20200505-paris-to-turn-more-streets-over-to-bicycles-as-covid-19-coronavirus-lockdown-lifts
Economic: reduced expenditure on imported fossil fuel and vehicles and on the expansion of the road network, opportunities for small entrepreneurs involved in repairing and/or renting bicycles
Finally, we should also expect that the new generation of environment/health-conscious tourists would be keen to cycle around the island rather than sit in air-conditioned vans which they may associate with higher risks of catching Covid-19.
It should be noted that opposition to dedicated cycle lanes also exists. Much of it is based on poorly designed bike lanes and/or myths – see https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2019/jul/03/ten-common-myths-about-bike-lanes-and-why-theyre-wrong
It is hoped that this brief paper would trigger a fruitful debate that would culminate with a set of appropriate bicycle-related policies for the country not just of recreational use but also for daily commuting.
Published in Le Mauricien on 29 June 2021 - https://www.lemauricien.com/le-mauricien/a-case-for-dedicated-cycle-lanes/431767/