While the U.S. is examining auto policy to confront record gas prices and greenhouse gas emissions, Britain is investing in an existing, oil free, emissions free (manufacturing not withstanding) transportation option - bicycling.
In June, British Transport Secretary, Ruth Kelly, named Bristol the UK's first official "Cycling City" and announced plans for 11 additional Cycling Demonstration Towns throughout England, with a commitment of £140 million to increase cycling in the UK. £100 million of the money, granted to the 12 Demonstration Towns, will be used to create dedicated bike lanes, provide bike parking, safety training, on-street bike rental networks and a campaign to promote bicycling. The towns include Blackpool, Cambridge, Chester, Colchester, Leighton/Linslade, Shrewsbury, Southend on Sea, Southport with Ainsdale, Stoke, Woking and York. The project will be coordinated by Cycling England, a national agency that was formed in 2005. The additional £40 million is allocated to safety and training, particularly for children, as well as infrastructure to encourage cycling to school..
The UK need not look far to see the opportunities for cycling that can come from this investment. Their neighbor, Holland, is known as a cycling paradise. England has a good case for believing that they can meet their goal of getting 2.5 million Brits to take up cycling, including that a quarter of all car trips in the UK are less than 2 miles.
Bristol is taking its charge as the model cycling city quite seriously. They plan to get free bikes into lower income communities, create a dedicated cycleway linking the suburbs with the city, as well as build a state-of-the-art cycling facility in the city center, complete with showers, bike parking, lockers and other amenities that will make it easier for those using bicycles for their work commute.
This is the way to do it. Invest in infrastructure, safety and components that make cycling easy. The six existing Cycling Demonstration Towns, which were named in 2005, have seen that this program works to increase the number of bicyclists. The overall goal is to increase cycling levels throughout the UK by 20% by 2012.