Bikers wearing masks
Bikers wearing masks during COVID-19 pandemic in New York
Photo:UN/A. Istria

Why celebrate the bicycle?

Regular physical activity of moderate intensity – such as walking, cycling, or doing sports – has significant benefits for health. At all ages, the benefits of being physically active outweigh potential harm, for example through accidents. Some physical activity is better than none. By becoming more active throughout the day in relatively simple ways, people can quite easily achieve the recommended activity levels.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), safe infrastructure for walking and cycling is also a pathway for achieving greater health equity. For the poorest urban sector, who often cannot afford private vehicles, walking and cycling can provide a form of transport while reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, diabetes, and even death. Accordingly, improved active transport is not only healthy; it is also equitable and cost-effective.

Meeting the needs of people who walk and cycle continues to be a critical part of the mobility solution for helping cities de-couple population growth from increased emissions, and to improve air quality and road safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led many cities to rethink their transport systems.

Cycling and Sustainable development

World Bicycle Day draws attention to the benefits of using the bicycle — a simple, affordable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation. The bicycle contributes to cleaner air and less congestion and makes education, health care and other social services more accessible to the most vulnerable populations. A sustainable transport system that promotes economic growth, reduces inequalities while bolstering the fight against climate change is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

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UN Sustainable Transport Conference

The UN Sustainable Transport Conference will take place from 14 to 16 October 2021 in Beijing, China and will focus on the central role that sustainable transport plays in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Forum will also highlight opportunities, challenges and solutions in achieving a sustainable transport system worldwide.

Background

Acknowledging the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, and that it is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation, fostering environmental stewardship and health, the General Assembly decided to declare 3 June World Bicycle Day.

It encouraged stakeholders to emphasize and advance the use of the bicycle as a means of fostering sustainable development, strengthening education, including physical education, for children and young people, promoting health, preventing disease, promoting tolerance, mutual understanding and respect and facilitating social inclusion and a culture of peace.

The Assembly welcomed initiatives to organize bicycle rides at the national and local levels as a means of strengthening physical and mental health and well-being and developing a culture of cycling in society.

Secretary-General's Message for 2021

Bikes are freedom; bikes are fun. They are good for one’s health -- physical and mental -- and good for our one and only planet. Bikes are popular and practical, providing exercise and transporting us not only to school, stores and work but to a more sustainable future.

World Bicycle Day celebrates this great power and highlights the importance of non-motorized transport in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and combating climate change.

Today there are an estimated 1 billion bicycles in the world – about as many as passenger cars. Their use spans the generations, from toddlers to older persons; once you learn, you never forget.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, cycling was a critical mode of transport, and bike-sharing programmes were increasingly common, providing free or affordable access to bicycles for short trips.

The crisis has changed transport needs and behaviour, and prompted many cities to rethink their transport systems, with bicycles playing a vital role in offering an economical and non-polluting alternative.

This further embrace of cycling must be accompanied by heightened efforts to improve road safety and integrate the bicycle into sustainable transport planning and design. Investments in city infrastructure, including protected lanes and other measure to promote safety and counter the long-standing hegemony of the automobile. As we look ahead to the United Nations Global Sustainable Transport Conference in October in Beijing, let us pledge to support cycling and make better biking a reality.

To all the world’s cyclists on World Bicycle Day, whether out for sport, exercise or an errand, keep those wheels turning!

António Guterres

Bicycle sculpture by the sea by Ai Wei Wei

Bike repairs: Make it in The Gambia

Documents

Related Observances

Useful links

Illustration of a biker

According to the WHO Global action plan on physical activity 2018–2030, physical activity has multiplicative health, social and economic benefits, and investment in policy actions to increase physical activity can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are multiple direct and indirect pathways, by which policies to promote physical activity through walking, cycling, sport, active recreation and play, support 13 of the SDGs.

 

Woman on bike wearing mask

Can bicycles be a solution to the challenges of the post-COVID-19 recovery? European member countries of the United Nations recently created a taskforce to take this question further and discuss ways to make ‎post-COVID-19 mobility more environmentally sound, healthy ‎and sustainable.

 

A crowd of women sitting and laughing

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.