United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined staff from the organisation in New York City last week as well as diplomats and local campaigners for a bike ride in Manhattan to publicise the benefits of cycling as a sustainable means of urban transportation. The ride came ahead of the rollout next month of Citibike, New York City’s long-awaited bike share scheme.
The route of the ride that the Mr Ban participated in last week took the cyclists from UN Plaza on the bank of the East River to the offices of the Netherlands Mission to the UN, which organised the ride, on Third Avenue.
Mr Ban told fellow riders: "I would much rather see bicycles and bike-riders around here than the limousines, armoured SUVs and other gas-guzzling cars that we all use at the United Nations!"
From a picture accompanying a press release on the UN website, it appears that Mr Ban, a career diplomat from South Korea, was sporting a silver helmet, rather than a light blue one more in keeping with the organisation he heads.
The ride took place as New York City prepares to launch its own bike-share programme next month, following other major cities around the world including Paris, London and Beijing.
Sponsored by financial insititution Citi – hence its name, Citibike – the scheme which will be operated by Alta Bicycle Share through its subsidiary NYC Bike Share will initially have 10,000 bicycles and 600 docking stations that are the same as those used in London’s Barclays Cycle Hire Scheme.
The UN Secretary-General said he was eager to see urban cycle culture continue to grow, highlighting its environmental and health benefits.
"Last year, in a speech on health, I mentioned that bikes are great for our bodies and for our planet. The next day, a blog called me 'the world's newest biking advocate' I like that title," he revealed.
"Bicycles are important, but they are just part of a bigger picture: our global efforts to achieve truly sustainable development. Our challenge is to get the world to use renewable energy to power our trains, planes, buses and boats. This is especially important for cities," he went on.
Mr Ban added that this month’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro would give countries a chance to reach agreement on promoting green development initiatives, including sustainable transport.
Meanwhile, New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) last month launched a campaign called ‘Don’t be a jerk’ including three adverts that it says “humorously highlights the essential dos and don’ts of safe, responsible biking” – although some might say that substituting the word “patronisingly” for “humorously” would be nearer the mark.
The adverts, starring celebrity chef Mario Batali, actor and comedian John Leguizamo and model and actress Paulina Porizkova were timed to coincide with the start of Bike Month and tie in with the DOT’s Bike Smart initiative.
Launching the adverts, DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said: “As our streets have become safer and as more New Yorkers take to two wheels, bike riders need to adopt a street code.
“A nice way to put it is that we all simply need to look out for one another. To put it a little more bluntly, don’t be a jerk. It’s a simple, direct message with a wink for bicyclists to follow the rules and help make our streets safer for everyone on them.”