Nothing compares to the simple pleasures of a bike ride. John F. Kennedy
The 3rd of June has been designated by the United Nations as World Bicycle Day. On 12 April 2018 the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 72/272 which recalled that the UN Millennium Development Goals in its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognize that sport is an important enabler of sustainable development, and that the potential of the bicycle to contribute to the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, as well as The UN’s new urban agenda is significant. The Resolution further recognized that the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, coupled with its simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation was invaluable, not to mention its role in fostering environmental stewardship and health.
The Resolution also refers to the synergy between the bicycle and the user which fosters creativity and social engagement and gives the user an immediate awareness of the local environment. The bicycle can serve as a tool for development and as a means not just of transportation but also of access to education, health care and sport. Above all, the bicycle is a symbol of sustainable transportation and conveys a positive message to foster sustainable consumption and production and has a positive impact on climate.
It was also recognized that the bicycle promotes social development through sport and physical education, including cycling, and mentioned its extremely important role of productive public-private partnerships in financing programmes for organizing bicycle rallies to promote peace and development, preservation of the environment, institutional development and physical and social infrastructure. Therefore, the conclusion reached was that major international and local cycling competitions should be organized in the spirit of peace, mutual understanding, friendship, tolerance and inadmissibility of discrimination of any kind, and that the unifying and conciliative nature of such events should be respected,
The United Nations therefore invited all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other relevant international organizations, international, regional and national sports organizations, civil society, including non-governmental organizations and the private sector, and all other relevant stakeholders to cooperate in observing World Bicycle Day, to celebrate the Day and to promote awareness of it. Resolution 72/272 encourages Member States to devote particular attention to the bicycle in cross-cutting development strategies and to include the bicycle in international, regional, national and subnational development policies and programmes, as appropriate and to improve road safety and integrate it into sustainable mobility and transport infrastructure planning and design. In particular , mention is made to the adoption and implementation of policies and measures to actively protect and promote pedestrian safety and cycling mobility, with a view to achieving broader health outcomes, particularly the prevention of injuries and non-communicable diseases.
All stakeholders are encouraged by the Resolution to emphasize and advance the use of the bicycle as a means of fostering sustainable development, strengthening education, including physical education, for children and young people, promoting health, preventing disease, promoting tolerance, mutual understanding and respect and facilitating social inclusion and a culture of peace. In this context Member States are encouraged to adopt best practices and means to promote the bicycle among all members of society, and in this regard welcomes initiatives to organize bicycle rides at the national and local levels as a means of strengthening physical and mental health and well-being and developing a culture of cycling in Society. The Secretary General is requested to bring the Resolution to the attention of Member States and the Organizations of the United Nations system.
According to this Resolution, the humble bicycle can be a tool for promoting clean air, physical fitness, peace and friendship, social harmony, education, health care, creativity, and sustainable development within a community. In this context it is difficult to envision any other mode of transport, from SpaceX to rail to road transport, or shipping for that matter, or even air transport contributing to all these outcomes. One wonders what the extended use of the bicycle would do in the most polluted cities in the world: Lahore; Hotan; New Delhi; Bhiwadi and Peshawar. Also, what would the effect of cycling to work instead of travelling by taxi do to an executive in terms of obviating diabetes or cardiovascular disease?
Apart from disease avoidance cycling plays an important role in promoting physical fitness as an excellent form of exercise that activates various muscle groups, including the legs, buttocks, and core. It is also medically recognized that regular cycling can improve cardiovascular fitness, build strength, enhance stamina, and help with weight management. Cycling has a distinct advantage over jogging or running as it is a low-impact activity that puts less stress on joints while serving as an excellent option for those with joint issues or those recovering from injuries. The physical activity generated by cycling boosts mental health and well being, through the release of endorphins, which can enhance mood and reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Cycling can also improve sleep quality and increase overall energy levels.
Another advantage in cycling lies in weight management, as regular cycling can help burn calories and contribute to weight loss or maintenance. It increases one’s metabolic rate, helping to shed excess body fat and build lean muscle mass. The balance required by cycling increases flexibility and coordination and the agility associated with cycling helps improve one’s overall motor skills and enhances flexibility, particularly in the hips and lower body.
Cycling is eco-friendly and cost effective. It reduces carbon emissions and helps preserve the environment. Bicycles have a minimal ecological footprint and contribute to sustainable transportation. There is also the benefit of commuting convenience where a cycle can navigate through traffic congestion, especially in urban areas, bypassing heavy traffic by using bike lanes or paths, and easily find parking.
The bicycle personifies determination, perseverance, and the pursuit of freedom. It highlights the theme of overcoming obstacles and embracing independence. Unlike other modes of transport (which are all driven by motor) cycling encourages cyclists to believe in themselves, The marvels of cycling are brought to bear by those who value it. Mark Cavendish, British pro racer once said: “[T]o me it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or the sun is shining or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike, I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” For the women, Susan B. Anthony, US women’s rights activist said: “The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world.”