The cheap, green, low-tech solution for the world’s megacities – ft.com
Simon Kuper – Poorer megacities tend to be designed for rich people who can afford cars. Bikes are the answer
In a stunning photograph from Shanghai in 1991, clusters of cycling commuters stream across a bridge. The only motorised vehicles to be seen are two buses. That was China in the 1990s: a “Bicycle Kingdom” where 670 million people owned pushbikes. Chinese rulers were then still following the lead of Deng Xiaoping, who defined prosperity as a “Flying Pigeon bicycle in every household”.
Today China is the kingdom of eight-lane highways. Most lower- and middle-income megacities around the world have ditched the bike. But they now need to reclaim it. Modern “megacities” (defined as places with at least 10 million inhabitants) are the biggest human settlements in history, and growing every day.
The world had ten megacities in 1990, 33 in 2018 and will have 43 by 2030, says the United Nations. Over a third of their population growth will be in India, China and Nigeria. More cars will mean more traffic jams and more damage to people, the planet and city life. Happily, it’s perfectly feasible for these places to become bicycle kingdoms again.