By Charles Pekow — The potential of bicycles – particularly ebikes – to fill worldwide gaps in rural transportation systems remains woefully undeveloped. So says a recent report covering 80 countries on the lack of sufficient rural transportation infrastructure, coming from the International Transport Forum. Some European nations are making strides to expand small town cycling.
“Common obstacles to bicycle use in rural areas are the lack of safe cycling routes, longer distances and uphill stretches,” the forum states. But good infrastructure, which has been developed in parts of the United States, can help overcome these problems. The study also faults bicycle researchers for focusing in urban areas to the neglect of exurbs. “Many national cycling plans do not include objectives and targets for rural cycling. However, there is a need and desire in many rural areas and small towns to make active travel safer,” it says. It noted that Ireland recently took steps to remedy this inequality: last year it started a well-funded rural active transport program. And the German Transport Ministry is currently preparing a “toolbox” to plan bicycle facilities in small towns.
The forum recommends that bike rentals be on a long-term (monthly or annual) basis rather than the short-term ones favored in this country, and they should include service.
Another idea used in French and Dutch villages that hasn’t caught on in America: the self-driving vehicle known variously as a pédibus, vélobus or cyclobus with 10 seats that all students pedal to get to school.
Adding bicycle storage and rental programs at and leading to public transit also worked in rural Germany. Just developing a “mobility map” increased bike trips five percent in one German town.
Find the report, Innovations for Rural Transportation Mobility, at https://www.itf-oecd.org/sites/default/files/docs/innovation-rural-mobility.pdf.