[Outlook] Biking to a greener futureThe prehistoric discovery of the ability to harness fire and the invention of the wheel were the two biggest contributions to the development of humankind.
The harnessing of fire changed not only the everyday lives of people, from how they eat to where they dwell, but also the ways that we think.
The invention of the wheel extended our realm of movement, once limited by distance and the weight of the load. It also made possible many things that had been seen as impossible.
Wheels are used in many ways in nearly all areas of life. They have caused the evolution of a wide range of products.
One such product is the bicycle, which is today emerging as a key green growth strategy.
Many Koreans have forgotten about bicycles, but we actually used to be very familiar with them. It wouldn’t be too much to say that through learning how to ride a bicycle, a child can become an adult.
By the time babies turn one year old, they start to walk on their own. When they grow a bit more, they start to ride tricycles, one of the first toys and means of transportation for many children.
Although a tricycle has three wheels and no chains, the world that a kid can see on a tricycle is much different from the one he knew when he was toddling around on his feet.
That means the kid has grown up, even just a little. His view of the world has been elevated by the height of the tricycle seat.
We were familiar with tricycles and bicycles when we were young but we gradually forgot about them in our daily lives. This is probably because our means of transportation have become far more diverse and traveling distances have greatly increased.
A more fundamental reason is perhaps a lack of the right culture and conditions under which bicycles are used regularly.
Rapid economic growth allowed people to own cars, making dreams come true. But as a result, we have burned oil and released a variety of toxic substances into the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide.
What have been the consequences?
The streets are clogged with traffic jams and our environment is in serious trouble. A wide range of pollutants threaten our health, the ecosystem has been severely degraded and the natural environment has been ruined.
Abnormal phenomena resulting from climate change warn us of larger looming disasters.
Alvin Toffler, an American futurist and writer, said the Information Age represents a “Third Wave” of human society. He said the third wave will be followed by a fourth that will involve a revolution in biotechnology, genome research, development of space and the environment and climate.
It is a global consensus that green growth with low carbon emissions is absolutely necessary for a revolution in the environment and climate.
Our government is also pursuing a so-called Green New Deal project with enthusiasm, drawing attention from around the world as being a good example.
When the Green New Deal, which includes reviving four major rivers across the country, is completed, a 1,297-kilometer-long road for bicycles will be created, bringing drastic changes in our economy, culture and environment.
Downtown Seoul also needs more people to ride bicycles, as it suffers from all kinds of pollution.
The bicycle is an important means of transportation that will help us deal with high oil prices, climate change and environmental problems. Bikes are environmentally friendly, zero-emission machines that don’t pollute the environment.
The central and local governments are drawing up plans to build bicycle roads.
If infrastructure for bike riding is included around the four major rivers, and if it becomes commonplace and popular to travel by bicycle, we will soon be able to use bikes for daily purposes, such as commuting to work or going shopping.
As seen in advanced countries, a public program to share bicycles as public assets benefits all kinds of people by cutting down on transport fees and fuel costs.
If we put such a program in place, it will likely provide economic benefits especially to low-income people.
“If you feel your life is going by too fast, start pushing pedals. If you want to give your children air to breathe, push those pedals.” This is a slogan from Delft, a city in the Netherlands known as a haven for biking.
This slogan can be realized in our country as well when the bike paths are completed downtown.
*The writer is the president of the Seoul Olympic Sports Promotion Foundation. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Kim Joo-hoon