In recent years the concept of “Green transport” has received a newly revived hype. Riding a bike was seen as a money-saving exercise in the seventies. Now, it is the “cut down greenhouse gases” slogan that is driving the global movement.
Green transport revolves around a simple idea – switching to more efficient and environmentally friendly forms of transport. Bike riding, walking, using electric or hybrid vehicles and catching public transport are considered “green”, while driving a standard “fuel burning” car is not.
While fuel prices are climbing and the dooms day of global warming is nearing, more people are turning to sustainable ways of getting around, thinks Jan Stubbings, marketing and events manager of the Pedapod “green taxis” in Sydney.
Mrs Stubbings says that her company alone has cut down 24 tonnes of harmful greenhouse gas emissions in 2007. The target for 2008 is set to at least double that figure.
“We look at where the people are going and what fuel consumption would have been for that trip if they used a conventional taxi,” explains Mrs Stubbings.
Pedapods are 100 per cent carbon free, smog-free and noise-free in operation, and are a cross between a rickshaw and a bicycle. The funky-looking vehicles can be seen in CBD areas of all major Australian cities, except for Hobart and Darwin and are becoming a popular way of getting around.
In 2007 more Australians purchased bikes than cars – a trend that has been consistent for the last seven years. According to the Cycling Promotion Fund report, some 1.47 million bikes were bought last year, compared to 1.05 million cars.
The number of Australian adults who ride bikes is up 17 per cent from 2001 and bike commuting is growing at an average rate of 22 per cent across Australia’s capital cities, with Melbourne in particular experiencing a 42 per cent increase in bike commuter trips.
For Mrs Stubbings, bike riding goes back at least 15 years. It was her own preference for greener transport that pushed her to bring Pedapods to Australia from Germany, where these taxis number in the thousands.
“About 15 years ago, I rediscovered that sitting in the car, spending 2.5 hours a day in the car for a distance of 20km each way – and you think, I could have cycled that in less than an hour. And you think, why not?” jokes Mrs Stubbings.
Bike riding brings marked health benefits and are a great stress-relief tool.
“You get to work and actually feel good. And instead of confronting that getting home nightmare in a crowded bus, train, suddenly you are out there doing something, and when you get home you feel de-stressed,” says Mrs Stubbings.
However, despite the growing popularity in riding, most cities in Australia remain novices to bike culture. In NSW, for example, taking a bike on the bus or train requires purchasing an extra ticket during peak hour, while in Brisbane only some buses have specialised bike cages.
Only Western Australia continues to lead the way in green transport innovations.
“They actually have signs on the trains for bike access. And there is an area on the trains to put the bikes. It’s the bike city of Australia!” says Mrs Stubbings, who adds that roads in Perth even have specialised pressure pads for bikes, that change traffic lights.
Western Australia’s internationally respected TravelSmart programme encourages people to use travel options that have a minimal impact on the environment.
Perth was also the only city so far to trial EcoBuses – a hydrogen operated vehicle that emits zero greenhouse gases, with the only emissions being water and heat. The trial ran from September 2004 to September 2007 and resulted in 300 tonnes of carbon savings.
However, Australians still have a long way to go, with 20 per cent of people living within 5km of their workplace, which is the perfect distance to cycle, 80 per cent still drive, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Denmark still remains the world’s “bike nation”, where an estimated 40 per cent of Copenhagen’s population commute by bike. Holland is also not far off, with some 30 per cent turning to bikes, rather than cars.