Bicycles were introduced in the 19th century and now number approximately one billion worldwide. They are the principal means of transportation in many parts of the world.
Cycling is widely regarded as a very effective and efficient mode of transportation optimal for short to moderate distances.
Bicycles provide numerous benefits in comparison with motor vehicles, including the sustained physical exercise involved in cycling, easier parking, increased maneuverability, and access to both roads, bike paths and rural trails. Cycling also offers a reduced consumption of fossils fuels air, or noise pollution, much reduced traffic congestion. These lead to less financial cost to the user as well as to society at large (negligible damage to roads, less road area required, but a many cyclists clustering at peak times create a CO2 issue when exhaling. By fitting bicycle racks on the front of buses, transit agencies can significantly increase the areas they can serve.
Many schools and police departments run educational programs to instruct children in bicycle handling skills and introduce them to the rules of the road as they apply to cyclists. In different countries these may be known as bicycle rodeos or operated as schemes such as Bike ability. Education for adult cyclists is available from organizations such as the League of American Bicyclists.
Beyond simply riding, another skill is riding efficiently and safely in traffic. One popular approach to riding in motor vehicle traffic is vehicular cycling, occupying road space as car does. Alternately, in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, where cycling is popular, cyclists are sometimes segregated into bike lanes at the side of, or separate from, main highways and roads. Many primary schools participate in the national road test in which children individually complete a circuit on roads near the school while being observed by testers.
A parking lot for bicycles in Japan.
Bicycle stands outside the Centre for Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge. Many students at the university opt to travel by bicycle.
Cyclists, pedestrians and motorists make different demands on road design which may lead to conflicts. Some jurisdictions give priority to motorized traffic, for example setting up one-way street systems, free-right turns, high capacity roundabouts, and slip roads. Others share priority with cyclists so as to encourage more cycling by applying varying combinations of traffic calming measures to limit the impact of motorized transport, and by building bike lanes, bike paths and cycle tracks.
In areas in which cycling is popular and encouraged, cycle-parking facilities using bicycle stands, lockable mini-garages, and patrolled cycle parks are used in order to reduce theft. Local governments promote cycling by permitting bicycles to be carried on public transport or by providing external attachment devices on public transport vehicles. Conversely, an absence of secure cycle-parking is a recurring complaint by cyclists from cities with low modal share of cycling.
A bicycle loaded with tender coconuts for sale. Karnataka, India.
Main article: Utility cycling
Utility cycling refers both to cycling as a mode of daily commuting transport as well as the use of a bicycle in a commercial activity, mainly to transport goods, mostly accomplished in an urban environment
Bicycles enjoy substantial use as general delivery vehicles in many countries. In the UK and North America, as their first jobs, generations of teenagers have worked at delivering newspapers by bicycle.
Main article: Bicycle touring
In the Netherlands, bicycles are freely available for use in the Hoge Veluwe National Park.
Tour de Fat group ride in Portland, Oregon
Bicycles are used for recreation at all ages. Bicycle touring, also known as cycle tourism, involves touring and exploration or sightseeing by bicycle for leisure. A brevet or redone is an organized long-distance ride.
Many cycling clubs hold organized rides in which bicyclists of all levels participate. The typical organized ride starts with a large group of riders, called the mass, bunch or even peloton. This will thin out over the course of the ride. Many riders choose to ride together in groups of the same skill level to take advantage of drafting.
Woman doing casual cycling in Canada
The health effects of bicycling are a trade-off between the benefits of exercise versus the risks due to pollution, crashes, or injuries.
The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks, when cycling is compared to a sedentary lifestyle. A Dutch study found that cycling can extend life spans by up to 14 months, but the risks equated to a reduced lifespan of 40 days or less. Overall, benefits of cycling or walking have been shown to exceed risks by ratios of 9:1 to 96:1 when compared with no exercise at all. These studies do not compare cycling with other forms of cardiovascular conditioning that do not come with cycling’s inherent risks
Heavily equipped London cyclist: specialist cycle clothing, pollution mask, dark glasses and helmet.
The physical exercise gained from cycling is generally linked with increased health and well-being. According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is second only to tobacco smoking as a health risk in developed countries, and this is associated with many tens of billions of dollars of healthcare costs. The WHO’s report suggests that increasing physical activity is a public health ‘best buy’, and that cycling is a ‘highly suitable activity’ for this purpose. The charity Sustains reports that investment in cycling provision can give a 20:1 return from health and other benefits. It has been estimated that, on average, approximately 20 life-years are gained from the health benefits of road bicycling for every life-year lost through injury.
Bicycles are often used by people seeking to improve their fitness and cardiovascular health. In this regard, cycling is especially helpful for those with arthritis of the lower limbs who are unable to pursue sports that cause impact to the knees and other joints.
Virgin Mary venerated as the holy protector of bicyclists on the roads of the mountainous Basque Country
Cycling suffers from a perception that it is unsafe. This perception is not always backed by hard numbers, because of under reporting of accidents and lack of bicycle use data (amount of cycling, kilometers cycled) which make it hard to assess the risk and monitor changes in risks. In the UK, fatality rates per mile or kilometer are slightly less than those for walking. In the US, bicycling fatality rates are less than 2/3 of those walking the same distance
Exposure to air pollution
One concern is that riding in traffic may expose the cyclist to higher levels of air pollution, especially if he or she travels on or along busy roads. Some authors have claimed this to be untrue, showing that the pollutant and irritant count within cars is consistently higher, presumably because of limited circulation of air within the car and due to the air intake being directly in the stream of other traffic. Other authors have found small or inconsistent differences in concentrations but claim that exposure of cyclists is higher due to increased minute ventilation and is associated with minor biological changes.s The significance of the associated health effect, if any, is unclear but probably much smaller than the health impacts associated with accidents and the health benefits derived from additional physical activity