The UK's first "Dutch-style" roundabout at Cambridge prioritizes cyclists and pedestrians over motorists.
Joe Giddens | PA pictures | Getty Images
As the latest example of how the cities we live and work in are changing, a city in the north of England has launched a free trial of electric bikes to encourage commuters to park their cars and use two wheels instead.
The program in Leeds allows people to use the bikes for up to two weeks provided they pay a £ 200 deposit and journeys can be up to 10 miles each way. A total of 15 bicycles are available: 10 of them are permanently mounted, the other five are foldable.
Leeds' electric bike program follows on from yet another attempt in the city that gave charities and businesses the opportunity to use electric vehicles for free.
"Since the electric vehicle trial was launched earlier this year, attendees have invested in their own cleaner, greener vans. We are excited to launch this similar electric bike offering," said James Lewis, vice chairman of Leeds City Council in a statement released on Monday.
"As part of our transportation strategy, we are working hard to make cycling an everyday choice for the people of Leeds," added Lewis. "Electric bikes have really exciting potential to make it easier and more accessible for many."
Leeds is not alone in its attempts to promote the use of electric bicycles. Parts of the UK's capital, London, are also running a program to that effect: this summer, a company called HumanForest in Islington launched an electric bike rental that can be used for free for 20 minutes a day before charging 0.12p per minute and Camden.
The desire of local and national authorities to develop more environmentally friendly infrastructure and promote more sustainable modes of transport seems to remain here. Big cities like New York, Paris and London have established and popular bike rental programs.
On Tuesday, the Scottish city of Aberdeen said it would work with experts from energy major BP to cut emissions and "become a climate-positive city".
The collaboration will focus on a number of areas including: the use of hydrogen in transport and for heat and electricity; the development of "solutions for clean, low-emission vehicles"; and increasing energy efficiency in buildings.
The UK government on Wednesday announced £ 12 million funding for research projects on electric vehicles, including those related to fast battery charging.
While the adoption of electric vehicles and the infrastructure needed to keep them running smoothly is encouraging, much more needs to be done to meet the climate goals.
In a statement emailed to CNBC, Daisy Narayanan, director of urbanism at Sustrans, a charity focused on walking and cycling, described electrification as a "step in the right direction for urban mobility."
"Electric bicycles, in particular, open up cycling for last mile deliveries, people moving further distances, and those wanting to ride a bike for the first time," Narayanan emphasized a number of topics of conversation.
"However, if we really want to meet the decarbonization goals, we have to think beyond electrification, especially about electric cars," she said. "While air quality emissions from combustion are reduced, brake and tire emissions from electric cars can still lead to dangerous particulate levels."
With efforts to encourage both walking and the use of bicycles, the physical infrastructure of cities is changing as well, as separate cycle paths and wider sidewalks emerge.
Even roundabouts, a major feature of the UK's roads, are starting to look different. A "Dutch style" roundabout was officially opened in Cambridge at the end of July.
The roundabout, dubbed "the first of its kind in Britain" by Cambridgeshire County Council, is designed to give pedestrians and cyclists priority over motor vehicles.
A system of pedestrian crossings and cycle paths means that vehicles have to give way to pedestrians and cyclists when approaching and exiting the intersection.
Whether it's the introduction of electric vehicles or changes in street layout, the cities we live in are changing.
"Ultimately, we need fewer, not just cleaner cars on our roads, and solutions that better impact urban space, quality of life, congestion and public health should be prioritized," said Narayanan of Sustrans. "Streets and places that invite people to hike and bike will help us fight air pollution from motor vehicles and create healthier, happier cities."