IFP – Despite efforts by Iran’s Department of Environment (DoE) and anti-air pollution campaigns, the use of bicycles has failed to gain widespread popularity across the country. However, the public’s positive reaction to a recently launched challenge has raised hopes to this end.
While bicycle, as a cheap and environment-friendly means of transportation, is regaining its 19th-century status in most developed countries, particularly European states, Iranian metropolises still fail to see many cyclists in their streets despite their heavy traffic, high level of air pollution, and the growing number of their citizens suffering from diseases caused by the lack of adequate physical exercise.
The world’s first modern bicycle was invented by Baron Karl von Drais from Germany. He introduced his invention to the public in Mannheim in southwestern Germany in summer 1817. Although it is nowadays among the very first and most ordinary things almost every child learns to do, riding a bicycle has not always been as simple as it is now, particularly, in the early days following the introduction of the two-wheeled human-powered vehicle to the public. The first bicycle made by Drais weighed about 30 kilograms. This was while Drais’ invention at that time lacked certain necessary parts, such as seat, pedal as well as rear and front brakes, with which modern day bicycles are equipped.
Nevertheless, Drais’ “dandy horse” – what his newly invented vehicle that used only two wheels in tandem was called at the time – had the chance to inspire other inventors in the four corners of the earth to complete his invention step-by-step within the next 60 years. They added pedals, brakes and a number of other equipment to Drais’ bicycle, to make it take on its present-day form.
Bicycle, as a cheap means of transportation, is regaining its 19th-century status given the environmental challenges the world is currently facing, such as high air pollution level and global warming, which are two daily threats to all people’s life. While many people in big cities spend a large number of the precious hours of their lives being stuck in traffic jams, using bicycles, in addition to avoiding further destruction to the planet earth, is good for people’s physical and psychological health and help them spend less stressful angry hours in crowded streets.
A few while ago, to find out which cities provide cyclists with better services and amenities, a study was conducted at the order of a company located in the Danish capital of Copenhagen to rank the world’s metropolises in terms of their degree of commitment to developing and implementing bicycle-friendly policies. The results of the study showed that only three non-European cities have ranked among the world’s top 20 best metropolises for cyclists.
Disappointingly, none of the Iranian cities rank among the world’s top 20 – nay, top 75 cities in this regard.
The central Iranian province of Isfahan is the country’s cycling capital. Only bicycles are allowed to ply some of the city’s main thoroughfares during certain hours of the day. It is said that even Isfahan’s local politicians as well as the city councillors mostly use bicycle as a means of transportation.
In most Iranian cities, bicycles are still seen in front of the shops in the markets. In some of the Iranian towns’ old neighbourhoods, people still go back and forth in streets and alleys by bicycle. Nevertheless, bicycles are still mostly used by men in the country. Municipalities in the Iranian capital of Tehran and Mashhad have set up booths across the cities to lend people bicycles. However, people in charge of these booths refrain from lending bicycles to women. There have even been a number of instances in which cyclists have been treated harshly in Iranian cities. There are, nonetheless, still campaigns launched in Iran in the hope of fighting air pollution, tackling traffic congestion and preventing diseases caused by people’s insufficient physical movement – due to the lifestyle the modern life has imposed on them – by promoting the use of bicycles.
Since more than a year ago, environmental activists in the central Iranian province of Markazi – one of the most polluted areas in the country, have launched a campaign titled “car-free Tuesdays”. Thanks to efforts by Iran’s Department of Environment, the campaign has spread to other Iranian cities as well.
By reducing the number of the days, during a week, on which people use their private cars, this campaign seeks to minimise air pollution and remind people to pay more attention to their health. The growing popularity this campaign has achieved in Iran may help the country eventually has a number of representatives in the list of the world’s most bicycle-friendly cities.