Yesterday was World Bicycle Day. The day was instituted by the United Nations in New York on June 3, 2018 to recognise the uniqueness, longevity and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries, and to draw attention to the fact that it is a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transport.
The day encourages UN member states to devote particular attention to policies and programmers to include the bicycle in national and sub-national development and encourages them to improve road safety and integrate it into sustainable cycling mobility to protect pedestrian safety.
It is also meant to encourage stakeholders to emphasise the use of the bicycle as a means of strengthening education, including physical education, preventing diseases, promoting tolerance and mutual understanding and facilitating social inclusion; as well as encourage member states to adopt best practices and means to develop and promote the culture of cycling in society.
The celebration of the day has become even more paramount, in view of the novel pandemic, COVID-19, that has suddenly struck the world and fast-changed the way humans live on earth.
The use of commercial vehicles, for instance, is being discouraged because of the need for physical distancing to curtail the spread of the virus.
The COVID-19 has exposed not only some of the frailties of humans but also the major infrastructural, developmental and health gaps within the system.
In many developed countries, bicycle lanes have been intentionally provided to encourage people who want to ride, instead of drive, to do so in a safe and secure manner.
So many people go to school on bicycle; some attend church and other religious gatherings on bicycle, while there are those who ride purely because they want to exercise.
It is so unfortunate that we in Ghana have not fully appreciated the value of the bicycle; therefore, scarcely will one find a dedicated bicycle lane to allow people to ride so freely without hindrance.
As a nation, we need to realise that bicycles can serve as tools for development and, at the same time, be used to access education, health care and sports. For instance, in many parts of the northern sector of the country, many people use bicycles as a means of transport to their farms, while the young ones ride to school.
Unfortunately, in the urban centres, such a phenomenon is not common.
When a person rides a bicycle, it affords him or her an immediate awareness of the local environment, while it serves as a symbol of sustainable transportation and fuel saving.
World Bicycle Day is in its third year and we are confident that the day has come to stay. We at the Daily Graphic find the day a wake-up call to governments to provide the necessary infrastructure across countries to make riding easier, faster, safer and more comfortable for all.
The many pavements within cites which have been turned into markets by hawkers should be cleared of such people for them to do business in the markets, so that people on bicycles can ride freely.
While providing the infrastructure to make riding more meaningful for the people, we also suggest to the government to find ways of making the importation of bicycles completely tax free to make bicycles affordable for all.
Areas where people can ride should be well illuminated to prevent attacks by criminal-minded people.
It is our fervent hope that this day and beyond will be a major wake-up call for us to take the riding of bicycles in town more seriously.