Friday, August 21, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
"There's a giant explosion of interest," Stark said. "People sitting in a traffic jam see the bikes filing past and it makes them think twice about sitting in their cars."
There are 68 million bikes in Germany, a country with a population of 82 million. The total has risen by 2 million in three years. Bike sales have also remained strong in the past year, defying the economic crisis.
Cycling is a big industry with annual turnover of 1.7 billion euros ($2.40 billion) for cycles and a total of 3.5 billion euros for equipment. It employs about 9,000 people.
In Berlin's government quarter, hundreds of journalists, lobbyists, politicians and businessmen can be seen on bicycles at any time of the day between April and October. There are a growing number of die-hards who ride through mild winters.
Some prominent Germans take advantage of Berlin's bicycle-friendly wide avenues and bike lanes to pedal to work.
Deputy Finance Minister Joerg Asmussen and Martin Wansleben, managing director of the Chambers of Industry and Commerce, are regular bike commuters.
"We're always looking for ways to improve the infrastructure for cyclists to make it even a more attractive alternative," Berlin's Economy Senator Harald Wolf said in an interview.
The city spends 3 million euros ($4.24 million) a year improving 600 km of cycle paths and lanes.
"There are several big advantages of getting around by bike in a city like Berlin," Wolf told Reuters. "First of all, it's a cheap way to travel, and secondly it's positive for the environment because there's no CO2 emissions.
"On top of that it's healthy and in cities like Berlin that have so much traffic the average speed falls so far that you're almost as fast on a bike as you would be in a car."
Rolf Dieter Peschel is another happy cycle commuter. He sold his car and bought a bike two years ago. The 48-year-old, who now rides about 6,000 km per year, reckons it has saved him about 3,000 euros each year.
"I feel a lot fitter than before," said Peschel, who works as an ambulance medical assistant and commutes 17 km each way to work. "I look forward to my bike ride home all day. It's really amazing how much money you can save without a car."
Bettina Krause, 40, paused near the end of her 30-minute, 10-km journey to work at the Technical University at a bike lane traffic light, where 50 cyclists waited for a green light.
"I'd rather take my bike than squeeze into a crowded train," she said. "The thing I like about biking to work is that you can integrate a workout right into your day. I can't stand getting into the train any more."Thomas Geithner, a 32-year-old IT worker, said he left his car at home most of the time because the bike was faster.
"It's only about four km each way so I'd end up spending more time looking for a place to park than it takes to bike," he said. "There's just too much stress with the car. I'm here on the bike in a few minutes and in a good mood all day."
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Commuters who would rather not be trapped in jam-packed trains, which may increase the risk of exposure to the swine flu, are recently choosing a different option – bicycle-riding to the office.
Men in suits and ties with a backpack traveling to work have become the new trend, and there are several benefits besides the most obvious – escape from enduring train rides overcrowded with passengers.
“Although I have to wear a mask as soon as I get to the office, at least I don’t have to worry about it on the way to work. I bike about 40 minutes, 10 kilometers every day. I don’t go out drinking as much and I’ve lost 10 kilos in a year. My cholesterol level is better and medical exam results are great,” says one Osaka company worker.
Another company employee, a 10-year veteran as a bicycle commuter, explains he’s built stamina by traveling an hour and half to cover the 30-kilometer distance between his home in Kashiwa City and the office in Shinjuku. “I’m also earning extra money from the monthly transportation fee of 15,000 yen provided by the company.”
According to the Japan Bicycle Association, domestic bicycle shipments in 2008 reached 73.4 billion yen (a 21% increase from the previous year), of which sports-type cycles for town riding accounted for nearly 3 billion yen, a 68% increase. Bike related products are drawing attention as well, such as business suits using materials with enhanced breathing-stretching qualities.
Due to the economic downturn, more individuals are selling off their cars and switching to bike riding, according to the Association.
New businesses are following the trend, such as the “Runners Station Plus Bike” which opened in Chiyoda-ku this February, catering to bike commuters’ needs with locker and shower rooms. For the monthly fee of 23,000 yen, members can use the facilities and leave their expensive vehicles in a secure parking area.
Furthermore, an increasing number of companies are encouraging bicycle commuting as a part of the corporate “Eco” policy. For example, since 2006 Sanyo’s manufacturing facility in Gunma has offered continuous payment of commuting allowances to employees who switch from car to bicycle, provided that the distance is between 2 and 5 kilometers one way.
In the case of Yamaha Motor Company in Shizuoka, employees receive special benefits when they change their travel method from car to motorcycle, bicycle or commute on foot. The system has been implemented since 2004, and currently bicycle commuters are paid 1,000 yen per month from the company.
Last August, shochu manufacturer Okuchi Shuzo in Kagoshima introduced a system to encourage bike commute by offering 10 yen per kilometer. More than a third of its employees now ride bicycles to work.
Journalist Tsuyoshi Maeya, who lost 7 kilos in one year by switching to bicycle commuting advises, “You can avoid overcrowded trains, there’s less exposure to the flu virus and you’ll be able to build stamina and strengthen your immune system. But try to take it slow and easy – don’t attempt riding 20 kilometers to the workplace without giving yourself the chance to practice over weekends and gradually increase the distance you can handle.”
Needless to say, please follow traffic rules and remember that riding the bicycle under the influence of alcohol is a no-no.
SOURCE: JAPAN TODAY