Sunday, December 13, 2009

COP15 and cycling

COP15, the Copenhagen climate change conference, is trying to find appropriate mitigation and adaptation goals and strategies against climate change. Cycling is a carbon-efficient means of transport that in many cases presents a true alternative to driving a car. Let's take a look at how cycling has been showing in the first week of Copenhagen climate negotiations.

Denmark is a country of utility cycling, which can be an inspiration to both the conference participants and internationally. In Copenhagen, 1/3 of commuters cycle to work or school, but the city goal is even higher. Copenhagen is aiming at becoming the cycling capital of the world and hopes to achieve the cycling commuter rate of 1/2 by 2015. That city knows how to set a positive example!

For the participants, COP15 provides carbon-efficient means of transportation. The delegates have access to bio-fuel Volvos and they can use local public transportation for free. They also are provided with bicycles so that they can explore the city's bike-friendly infrastructure. This sort of practical solutions can inspire other conference organizers and the delegates to apply these means at home also. It is great that Copenhagen as the summit host is promoting sustainable lifestyle, including utility cycling, in the COP15 arrangements. The bike curiousity of COP15 are the electric bikes (provided by a sponsor) that have proven to be a success among the delegates. I had never heard of these thing until now. Does anyone have experiences on riding electric bicycles? How energy-efficient they actually are?

On 10th of December, there was a Wonderful World Cycling Tour orginized for the press. The aim was to introduce the reporters to the danish cycling culture. This sort of events are important, because they present cycling in the city in a very concrete way to the press, and in turn, the press can influence public and decision-makers' opinion.

There has been some international cyclist movements concerning COP15. In May, there was COP15 cycling tours organized in Japan by the Denmark Embassy and local cyclist associations. The goal of these tours was to symbolically carry the message of sustainability and responsibility from Kyoto to Copenhagen. More than 3000 people participated in these tours in Japan, and the final tour was organized in Copenhagen.

Ride Planet Earth is a movement of cyclists that are hoping to raise awareness of climate change issues. It all began in the August of 2008, when an especially devoted cyclist Kim Nguyen started a long bike ride from Australia to Copenhagen in order to attend the conference. On the way there, he visited many remote communities and observed the impacts of climate change. As he cycled on, he became an inspiration to many people and cyclist groups around the world. It set off the Ride Planet Earth movement, that peaked in as bike demonstrations around the world on 6th of December, the day of his arrival at Copenhagen. Did anyone participate in the Ride Planet Earth demonstrations? Please, leave a comment if you did, I'm curious to hear about your experiences! On the website there are videos of demonstrations and movement. Here's a video about Vienna Ride Planet Earth demonstration.

Unfortunately, I could not find any mentionings about cycling in the COP15 time tables or other documents. Probably cycling is not taken as seriously as technological innovations and economic steering measures in this driving-white-male-dominated conversation of climate change. However, individual countries (e.g. Finland, UK and Denmark) mention cycling in their national strategies to fight climate change. And, I have to give credit to the host city Copenhagen and to Denmark for their outstanding efforts to promote cycling in the country, also during the conference. Still, in the contex of COP15, cycling is mostly promoted by non-governmental organizations and movements. Some of them have managed to draw international public attention and hopefully also the attention of the decision-makers. Let's keep up with the situation in Copenhagen, and everybody: do your own share of cutting the carbon emissions! Keep cycling and take your friends with you!


anna said...

Thanks for the insight. Although I have not cycled on a E-bike myself, I have seen a few people in Switzerland using them. They also started to sell them here about two years ago. I think the better models are quite energy efficient as they store energy when one cycles downhill etc. Not necessary for fit adults, but probably a good alternative for disabled and old people, and also if one has to carry a lot of stuff or children.

Unfortunately, I completely missed the Planet Earth Ride in Vienna :(.

Kenneth said...

I read about a bike demo for "saving the oceans" at , but when I got to the starting place there were no other cyclists - and only a handful of people there, seemingly just hanging out at their booth.

Regarding the electric bikes, they are all the rage here. The problem, as far as I see, is that it's ordinary cyclists that convert to e-bikes. And I don't believe for a second that the cyclist charges the batteries while riding. You take the battery pack inside and charge charge it from the wall socket, which allows you to ride at 25 km/h with seemingly no effort. You have to turn the pedals around, but it looks like the electric motor does *all* the work - at least for those e-bicyclists I have seen.
And they are growing in numbers.

As far as I'm concerned, an e-bike is just an electric moped.

Or maybe I'm just pissed because they go just as fast as I do, just by twisting the gas handle. :-)

Sonja said...

Maybe E-bikes work for those that have to take a long ride to work. I was also wondering, what makes e-bike different from moped. If the batteries are charged by plug-in, then nothing really, I suppose. But, if it recharges while riding, it could be a useful and carbon-efficient transport innovation for suburban city dwellers. However, replacing pedaling with electricity takes away the health benefits of cycling, and that is a BIG minus. As anna wrote in a previous blog, cycling makes you smart and strong! I was also wondering, if those things work in cold weather. In my experience, when temperature goes below zero, things that has batteries (cameras, MP3-players, some cellphones)can stop working. When it gets below -20, many cars get unreliable. Would those things work in the northern winter? (it's minus 10 and I'm still cycling, as are many others). Are electric bikes affordable for ordinary people?

Frits B said...

E-bikes come in two flavors: electric assist and fully electric. The latter are just mopeds with electric motors, whereas the former (Pedelecs in Germany) require you to pedal and only give you an extra push. Both are very helpful for use in hilly country and for people who are short on power due to age or illness. Recharging can be done by plugging them into a wall socket. They sell well, 12,500 in Holland this year. Prices range from 900 Euro for a cheap Chinese bike to 4000 Euro for a quality bike. On average about 2200 Euro. Batteries last about 3 years and cost roughly 400 Euro. Just look at the major manufacturers' catalogs.

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