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Putting fun between your legs/The fun of pedalling

A commuter is someone who uses their bicycle for their everyday travel, in contrast with a cyclist, who uses a bike for sport or recreation. In reality, this distinction is artificial because, like many others, I do both, and frequently on the same journey. It is quite common for me to take the longest route to work out of the simple pleasure of pedalling, feeling the cool breeze on my face and enjoying the beauty of the city bathed in that special, early morning light.

IMG_3131Using a bike as a means of transport quickly became, if not an obsession, at least an addiction for me. And if pedalling is increasingly becoming fashionable, it is a good fashion because fortunately there are more and more bicycles being ridden on the roads in Portugal. This translates not only into fewer cars, but also into better health, and why not, enhancement of the urban environment. However, Portuguese cities have not kept pace on a structural level with the exponential growth in the use of bicycles as a means of transport, and in parallel there continues to be lack of civic responsibility on all sides, on the part of drivers, of cyclists and of pedestrians.

The truth is that cycle paths are spreading more and more in Lisbon, and even if they are not wholly effective, there is no doubt that they are an asset to the city. Obviously there are commuters who prefer to use the roads, such as me, as this allows me to reach greater speeds, something that is not necessarily related to being in a hurry, but rather to pleasure. When I prefer a comfortable and calmer journey, I opt for the cycle path.

No matter what decision I make, the bicycle has been my chosen means of transport for several years, mainly because it is a fun way of getting around, something that is not unconnected with the Lisbon cityscape. And even if Lisbon resembles Amsterdam in its cycling spirit, there is always room for improvement so as to turn it into a city that appeals even more to commuters, just with a few simple changes.

bikestopOne of the simplest and most effective measures to take seriously, similarly to what happens in the case of serious offences, would be to summon motorists to a retraining session. Lasting only a short time, this would just be about accompanying a motorist during a cycle ride along the city’s iconic streets, so that he or she could feel what it really means to travel on roads with a high volume of cars.

Another effective measure, but more complex to implement, would be, as in Paris or Holland, to develop specific signage for bicycle users. If such signs exist for pedestrians and motorists, why not for bicycles?

Despite the lack of perfection, with a little danger thrown in, of Lisbon as a city for cycling, the country both in structural and cultural terms is far from being averse to the pedalling culture, and it is up to us who do the commuting, and the ones who would like to do so, quoting Mahatma Ghandi, “To be the change we wish to see in the world”.

About the author

Hugo Filipe Lopes:Has a degree in sociology and a post-graduate qualification in clinical nutrition from the Egas Moniz Faculty. Collaborates with a number of online publications, a trainer and nutritional therapist. Honourable mentions in the Casa da Imprensa and Lisboa à Letra competitions..

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