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Posted on 16 September 2019

Will Butler-Adams OBE, CEO, Brompton Bicycle

Let's save our cities before it's too late. 

"The world is becoming increasingly urbanised. More than half of the earth’s population now lives in cities and the United Nations predicts this will increase to around two-thirds by 2050[1]. From our home in London to Tokyo, San Francisco to Paris – we’re living together in sprawling urban spaces.

Don’t get me wrong – I love cities. You’ll find rich history, culture and innovation within them. But something has gone wrong along the way. Not only have we completely lost touch with our surroundings, our urban lifestyles are damaging our health and the environment. Life expectancy progress actually hit its lowest level for 36 years in 2018[2] and we are facing a climate emergency which is perilously close to the point of no return.

This is a serious situation which will have ramifications for generations to come. We’re stressed out, suffering from mental health problems, obesity is through the roof and pollution is at dangerous levels.

This has a lot to do with our routines. We get up in the morning, move like robots into underground transport systems. These pop us out at work, where we sit for eight hours a day in front of a screen.

This is deeply unhealthy. A study by The Lancet found that at least one hour of physical activity per day is required to offset the damage done by sitting like this for eight hours[3].

It doesn’t have to be this way. There are changes we can make to improve the way we live in cities, to improve our health and to improve our environment.

Just look at Copenhagen for example. It is regularly cited as one of the happiest and healthiest cities in the world and enjoys high levels of productivity and employment contentment. It’s a shining example of how urban design, with strong bicycle culture and green spaces, can transform attitudes and wellbeing.

If they can do this, so can we. We’ve spent billions on HS2 and where has that got us? Perhaps we should have been investing in turning our cities into places that encourage healthy movement. Cycling, running, walking – these are some of the activities which supercharge our well-being, not damage it.

This is a subject close to my heart. Thanks to Brompton Bicycle, I’ve travelled the world, living and breathing urban cycling. I’ve seen examples of environments which work and I’ve spent plenty of time in those that don’t. I strongly believe a more active lifestyle can start to combat some of the biggest issues that plague our modern cities. I’m not alone in this belief, but I am in a minority, and this also needs to change.

If we investigate the way we organise and move around our cities, we can start to find even more solutions. That’s why we’ve spoken to some of the world’s leading urban experts to explore how clever urban planning and smart technologies can impact our environments for the better. We’ve heard many brilliant solutions which could transform the way we live.

We’ve brought these together in our Campaign for Movement because at Brompton we believe there is a solution and we want everyone to be part of it. We see this campaign as a rallying cry to everybody to act now, before it’s too late. 

  

If we work together, we can become a catalyst for change – starting in our home city of London; creating healthier, happier cities that enable citizens, rather than hold them back. 

 

Find out more about our Campaign for Movement here.


[1] https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html

[2] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45638646

[3] https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-07/tl-tlo072616.php