‘Cycling holds less than 1% share of urban transport in Iran’

September 24, 2019 - 15:57

TEHRAN – Cycling constitutes less than 1 percent of urban transportation in the Iranian cities, while in bike-friendly cities, such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, some 40 percent of trips are being conducted by bikes, an official with the Municipalities and Village Administration Organization has said.

The shocking rate of cycling in the country is the result of ignorance and lack of serious follow-up, ISNA quoted Marzieh Salehi as saying on Monday.

Implying that there are no deficiencies in laws for using clean public transport especially bicycles in the country, she noted that many plans have been drawn up to improve urban transport, reduce the share of private cars, decrease fuel consumption and air pollution. 

“We also have government approvals in this regard, however, weak enforcement led to such condition,” Salehi lamented.

Since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21), Tehran air quality has been unhealthy for sensitive groups for 25 days due to high rate of ozone emissions, while one day reported to be unhealthy for all the residents, according to the Tehran Air Quality Control Company.“The early adopter cities, such as Amsterdam, recording such strong levels of cycling were once like us, suffering traffic jams; auto-centricity was widespread in their country, and industrialization was associated with the growth and development of automobiles,” she explained.

“Gradually, most developed countries have come to the conclusion that as we increase roads and highways, we are moving away from eco-friendly cities,” she added.
In recent years, citizens infected with diseases caused by inactivity, including overweight, diabetes, fatty liver, but mayors and government officials have Instead of focusing on reducing the negative impacts of private car use, insisted on developing automotive cities, she regretted.

Automotive cities major obstacle to cycling

Salehi went on to say that developing cities highly reliant on car-based mobility had two dire consequences for the country, one of which was rise of streets regardless of the infrastructure quality and the other was increased traffic-related accidents as well as spending national fund on such inefficient planning.

To say that developing roads is a disadvantage does not mean that the development of passages should be abandoned altogether, she said, implying, in fact, the disadvantage was mainly the increase of car mobility across the cities.

“However, it was decided ultimately to revise the development approach and focus on human-centered cities and clean transport infrastructure.

Projects proposed lately were more in line with human-centered issues; it was planned that to boost cycling in small towns that do not require buses or taxis,” she added.

Elsewhere in her remarks, Salehi said that “biking holds a share of less than 1 percent in cities across the country, while in some pioneering cities, such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen, cycling accounts for 40 percent of the urban trips.

Urban management in our country is mostly seek immediate result, while cycling take years to develop; in fact, the reason why riding remains a minority mode of transport in so many cities was a lack of serious incentive and national attention. 

Preparing bicycle infrastructure at the national level is a daunting task which requires serious determination, which has so far not been formed.”

Referring to the ‘Car-free Tuesdays’ campaign, she noted that such movements towards cleaner transportation needs cooperation of people and all responsible bodies.

‘Car-free Tuesdays’ campaign kicked off in 2016 by NGOs aiming to decrease the number of private cars in cities, hence mitigate air pollution.

She went on to say that Tehran mayor participating in the campaign resulted in its revival; so officials can encourage the public to an action in case they are taking the same action.

Tehran, Qom, Qazvin and Arak cities are developing a comprehensive bicycle transportation plan, and some have even finalized it; so far, a 40-km bike path has been built in Qazvin, she added.

Biking to be promoted by all responsible bodies 

Criticizing the Health Ministry, she said that the Ministry was supposed to cooperate in promoting cycling as it reduces inactivity and related diseases but turned out reluctant and avoided cooperation, as well as the Ministry of Education, not issuing a permit to establish bike networks at schools.

Therefore, all the related organizations must take steps toward a combination of changing attitudes, demographics, and emerging technology that help urban populations lower their dependence on the private cars, she said, adding, media and the Ministry of Sports and Youth can play a vital role in this regard.

“We sent a plan to the economic council of parliament to pay the citizens from the fuel-saving profit; but unfortunately it did not reach any results since past 5 months,” she regretted.

She further called on the government to support the development of bike sharing system and infrastructure to achieve an effective result.

Which country records strong levels of cycling?

No country matches the Netherlands, either in the proportion of the population who cycle, or in cycling safety, as it is commonly said that the Dutch are ‘blind to cycling'; meaning that it is such an ordinary activity, undertaken by such a broad section of the community (13 percent of trips by those 75 years and over are by bike), that it has simply not warranted much attention, according to the Dutch National Travel Survey.

Cycling promotion experiences

In August, it was announced that an Iranian startup set out to provide a system based on Internet of Things (IoT) for its bike sharing service in Tehran in coming months. Using an application very similar to that of ride-hailing apps citizens can find the nearest bikes to them and by paying a small fee they can cycle in different parts of the city and leave the bike wherever they wish for the next user. 

But since other schemes designed to promote cycling in the city proved to be ineffective due to lack of necessary infrastructure, most importantly safe bike lanes, the new bike sharing scheme future is yet uncertain for now. However, the project initiated in past few months and Tehraners are using the greener transport option to help curb messy air pollution. 

As cities around the world struggle to manage the competing demands on finite road space, a reallocation of road space may be necessary in order to overcome the perceived and real safety concerns that hold back bicycle riders in countries with low cycling levels.

How biking affects the cities?

A study by World Health Organization published in 2016 asserts that Tehran is one of the most air polluted cities in the world. Tehran is ranked 12th among 26 megacities in terms of ambient PM10 levels.

While cars are the most abundant in the city, heavy-duty vehicles including buses and trucks the most polluting ones contributing to 85 percent of the air pollution in the city.

Since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year (March 21), Tehran air quality has been unhealthy for sensitive groups for 25 days due to high rate of ozone emissions, while one day reported to be unhealthy for all the residents, according to the Tehran Air Quality Control Company.

Traffic congestion and cars can contribute to ozone raise, as toxic emissions of oxides of nitrogen is released by diesel cars during fuel combustion in an engine.

Bicycles, as a cleaner transport fleet can have immediate and long-term benefits for the cities being haunted by air pollution.


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