Cities must be made more bicycle-friendly

We also need more and better framework conditions for recreational cycling and cycling education.

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Many cities in Europe have made their streets more bike-friendly. That's great! But we also need more and better frameworks for recreational cycling and cycling education. Cycling playgrounds are great places for beginners to improve their cycling skills. In most cases it's children, but there are also adults who benefit from simple places to develop basic skills.

One of the most interesting examples of bicycle playgrounds is the Radmotorikpark on the Neue Donau in Vienna. I spent some time there with Alec Hager, who runs the Radvocat agency and teaches children how to bike.

"The good thing is that there is space for different user groups: there are things suitable for 3-year-old kickbikers and a pump track for 16-year-old boys who want more of a challenge. I also like that kids can ride in any direction. There are arrows to show the direction, but most kids don't care. Open spaces with painted lines are a great place to learn how to resolve conflicts in traffic."

In addition to the open space, the bike motor skills park has two modular pump tracks from Parkitect, a slalom area, tram tracks, cobblestones, small drops and a large "volcano" so that children can improve their skills and have fun.

In Sundbyberg, Sweden, you can see a slightly different approach to a bicycle playground. Using products from VeloPark, the municipality has created a small skills park. Just before winter, balance snakes, small drops, see-saws and light rollers were installed.

The combination looks very appealing, and the finishing touches and planting are still pending. I can imagine that my 5 and 7 year old children would love to spend a lot of time here. And if their skills are good enough, there is a short mountain bike trail in a forest next to the bike playground.

Bicycle playgrounds come in many forms and can be built in urban, semi-urban, rural or park settings. Ideally, they are connected to urban mountain bike trails and bike paths.

“We have talked a lot about the need for more mountain bike trails in urban areas,” says Hans Stoops of the International Mountain Bicycling Association IMBA when we speak later in Stockholm.

For example, in my hometown of Tampere in Finland, there are over 80 km of cross-country ski trails, but only 11 km of mountain bike trails. And the cycling season lasts about 12 months each year. In 2017, one in four Finns said they did cycling as a sport, but only one in ten said cross-country skiing was their hobby. Cycling playgrounds and mountain bike trails in cities would mean that more people have access to a good trail close to where they live. This would reduce the use of the car to reach hiking trails and benefit both the climate and the cities' activity goals.

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