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3 tangible ways cities can embrace cycling and get more cars off the road

Bikes are a lifeline in climate emergencies. They also have the power to slow down the climate crisis.

3 tangible ways cities can embrace cycling and get more cars off the road
[Source photo: Milan Jaros/Bloomberg/Getty Images, Attila Adam/iStock/Getty Images Plus]

Last October, I met a Los Angeles resident I’ll call Laura at one of our community rides. When I asked what prompted her recent Brompton purchase, she got a little bashful, but then told me it was a response to watching coverage of the Maui wildfires. Residents in Lahaina were stuck in their cars, bumper to bumper, trying to get out of their homes that were burning to the ground in front of their eyes. She was shocked. Amid the evacuations, facing treacherous conditions and congested roads, she thought that those with access to alternative forms of transportation, like bicycles, had a direct escape route that others did not.

Though Laura had owned a bike while growing up on the East Coast, she gave it to a friend when she moved to Los Angeles, where she was within walking distance of her work. But it was last summer, motivated by fear, that Laura bought her first bike in the years since. She saw something of herself in those fleeing the flames that August day: Wildfires are frequent, unwelcome visitors to Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, and in today’s deteriorating climate, they’re already moving down the coast.

After all, record-breaking forest fires during California’s summer months have become a regular occurrence. Environmental research shows that 10 of the largest California wildfires have occurred in the past 20 years—five of which happened in 2020 alone. And with her bike, Laura wouldn’t be stuck in gridlock with them approaching.

This, Laura feared, is our new normal. She’s not alone: In 2024, cycling has taken on a new meaning—especially for those living in urban communities, one with heightened stakes given the increased frequency of climate-related disasters.

But more than just a tool to escape from disaster, bicycles are also a solution for many macro issues associated with today’s urban lifestyle. On average, cyclists have 84% lower-lifecycle carbon emissions from all daily travel than non-cyclists. Bicycling creates community by promoting social inclusivity and local third-spaces while also reducing air pollution. If bikes have such power, why aren’t we doing everything we can to support them in our cities?

Here’s how cities can harness this enthusiasm to better reflect our planet and its residents. Because when community resilience is strengthened, everyone is better equipped to navigate a crisis.


June Churchill, a member of the Denver Bicycle Lobby, was involved in local advocacy that secured $2 million dollars in city budget amendments for innovative infrastructure, legal changes, programming, e-bike rebates, and other policy actions across the city.

This earned her the honorary title of “2024 Denver Bike Mayor,” a name that has stuck despite her historically casual relationship with city cycling, having grown up in Colorado Springs mostly mountain biking. June isn’t the planet’s only bike mayor: The Bicycle Mayor & Leader Program (BYCS) is a global initiative to accelerate the progress of cycling in cities.

According to BYCS’s 2022 impact report, Bike Mayors in cities from Madrid to Mumbai have organized cycling-centric events for children in their cities, taught residents to ride and repair their own bicycles, offered discounted secondhand bikes to community members in need, and worked with local and national governments to implement bike-friendly city planning programs. With more budgets devoted to cycling infrastructure and education, rider safety will increase as well, ultimately encouraging more citizens to consider biking over other transit options.


Transportation makes up almost one-third of carbon emissions in the U.S., a significant portion of which are represented by cars. But congestion pricing—aka fees charged for driving on busy city roads—are an environmental secret weapon. Not only do they reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality, but they also create a generally more livable environment. With the uptick in fares deterring drivers from hitting the streets, roads become cleaner, quieter, and less polluted—all while helping to fund improvements to public transit.

Three cities around the world implemented congestion pricing years ago, with the climate benefits to boot. In London’s central business district, for instance, the capital reduced fossil fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by 16%. Singapore and Stockholm have seen massive advantages, too; in the former, congestion pricing has prevented the emission of an estimated 175,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each day.

Back stateside, congestion pricing is expected to launch in New York City this year, which would make the Big Apple the first U.S. city to enact these tolls. We’ll be curious to see how it goes—and how much of an impact it makes in both the short and long term.


Just as some cities want to make it more expensive to drive high-emission vehicles on their roads, others want to make it harder to park those vehicles. Last spring, for example, the French government announced a €2 billion plan to expand cycling infrastructure as part of a broader effort to encourage people to ditch their cars. As part of the program, under the leadership of Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Paris will eliminate 72% of its street parking spaces. It will also charge larger parking fees for SUVs to encourage residents to walk and cycle instead of drive.

The €2 billion will be deployed through 2027 with the goal of doubling the nation’s bike lanes by the end of the program. The government sees the effort to boost bicycle use as part of its broader effort to fight climate change.

In the 1920s, many American cities began adopting an under-the-radar policy called parking minimums. It meant that any type of property, from apartment buildings to shopping districts, needed to reserve a certain number of parking spaces to accommodate visitors.

In November, Austin became the largest U.S. city to wipe out parking minimums for virtually every kind of building. Austin City Council Member Zohaib “Zo” Qadri, the proposal’s author, told The Texas Tribune that keeping those requirements “makes no sense. It gobbles up scarce land . . . It makes it harder for small businesses to get off the ground. And it . . . actively works against our public investments in transit, bike lanes, trails, and sidewalks.”

Ultimately, while changing infrastructure, eliminating parking spaces, or imposing congestion fees may seem inconvenient for a car-centered world, prioritizing more eco-friendly transportation is a necessity in the midst of a climate crisis. Short term, it leads to safer, healthier cities, but the long-term effects aren’t to be overlooked as well. For Laura, a bike may be the means to get to safety in an emergency, but they’re also a chance to prevent emergencies in the first place.

Juliet Scott-Croxford is the President (North America) of Brompton, a 50 year-old global company and Certified B Corp on a mission to transform biking culture.

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