Bike-Train-Bike: A New European Program to Promote Car-Free Commutes

2014 702 bike swThe idea is to promote the use of bicycles and public transit to boost urban commuting. Schaffhausen railway station in Europe. (Photo: Marcin Wichary / Flickr)Bicycles and trains, what coud be a better combination? A new European program is launching to promote that partnership, with a goal of making sure that cities across Europe are healthier, more livable and less congested.

When it comes to alternative transportation, as cities we have to ensure that residents can easily use those modes of transportation, and that means ensuring that they work together. That’s where BiTiBi (which stands for Bike-Train-Bike) comes in.

A three-year program funded by the European Union, the idea is to promote the use of bicycles and public transit to boost urban commuting. In fact, the project goal is to decrease car use by several million km per year and CO2 emissions by several 100 tons per year in the four pilot projects.

As the BiTiBi website states, “Combining the bicycle with railways for first and last mile transport is nothing new. It’s as old as the bicycle itself.”

In terms of getting more people to use alternative transportation, the connection between bikes and public transportation is essential. Someone may not be willing to bike 20 miles to work, but they’re probably willing to bike a couple of miles on the front and back end of the trip if they can take a train for the majority of the distance.

The project is basing its pilot projects on the Dutch model, working to solve the typical issues that come up when you’re trying to combine a bike and train ride: lack of bike parking, no bike-friendly access to train stations and ineffective fare integration. This is all about constructing a seamless door-to-door transportation option that doesn’t involve a car.

With the help of ten partners, the pilot projects will be implemented in the regions of Barcelona, Milan, Liverpool and Belgium.

Will such a program help other countries learn lessons about urban commuting as well? While Europe is known for it extensive system of trains and public transportation, it’s not perfect, but it’s important to invest money into pilot programs that will help to inspire cities to consider modern approaches to transportation, and get more and more people thinking about how we need to restructure cities for maximized livability.

Think about it: wouldn’t you rather have a one-mile ride in a bike lane to get to a train station, and then a relaxing train ride to work where you can drink your coffee, read the newspaper or stare out the window as opposed to a stressful car commute, stuck in traffic?

As Europe learns a little more about how bikes and trains can work together, let’s hope that we take a few of those lessons and put them to use as well.