Maybe you haven’t heard but May is National Bike Month. Of course we all know that more biking, less driving is excellent for your health and the planet so here are some extra resources to help you celebrate this annual event.
Some general tips about why bikes rock…
Cars are a big eco-problem. According to the Worldwatch Institute, there’s an average of 1 car per 12 people worldwide – except in the US, where the average is 1 car per 2 people. The EPA notes that every twenty years the amount of vehicle travel doubles. A recent study noted that upward of 20,000 air-pollution-related deaths per year, per degree Celsius, may be due to greenhouse gas and the EPA ranks transportation as the second largest contributor to greenhouse gases. While the Clean Air Task Force reports that, “Diesel exhaust shortens the lives of 70,000 Americans each year,” which includes 3,000 lung cancer U.S. deaths a year. It’s way out of hand. Biking is one way to cut down on this problem.
Bikes are less stressful. Sitting in traffic is not healthy and some folks do more than their fair share. One study shows that people living in L.A collectively spend about 100,000 hours a day in traffic jams – that’s insane.
Bikes are inexpensive compared to cars. Especially if you buy a used bike (I’ll post some tips for this later).
Bikes help fight the obesity epidemic. An estimated 300,000 deaths, give or take are caused by obesity each year. Biking is a safe, low-impact, aerobic activity for people of all ages. The League of American Bicyclists notes that a 150-pound cyclist burns 410 calories while pedaling 12 miles. You won’t get fit sitting in a car.
Help if you want to ride…
Bikes are an obvious solution to many of the problems that cars create. However, if you live in the U.S. you also live in a fairly un-bike-friendly area. The U.S. has only a handful of cities with extensive bike paths.
Many people don’t “get” bikes and would sooner run you down than allow you on the road. This is two-sided of course. I’ve seen super annoying bikers who don’t follow the rules of the road – like they cut cars off, race in front of you or cross on red lights. Another downside of biking is suburban sprawl. It can be tough to bike miles and miles to work.
In How to Make the World A Better Place by Jeffery Hollender, it’s noted that places like the Netherlands, West Germany and Japan are great places to be a biker. The Netherlands offers more than 9,000 miles worth of bike paths, and according to Hollender, “In some Dutch cities, half of all trips are made by bikes…. [and] the city of Kasukabe now has a twelve-story structure that uses cranes to park more than 1,500 bicycles.” That’s very different from the U.S.
The best way to start biking is to consider safety first, and push for change at a city and national level – i.e. encourage the government to add more bike paths, biking laws and support programs that support bikes as a viable transportation method.
Great resources for bike riders:
- How to Not Get Hit by Cars – sounds scary, but really, this is an excellent article for bikers.
- National Center for Bicycling & Walking
- Google now has bike maps available.
- What Does a “Bike Friendly” City Look Like? – video and article.
- The world’s most bike friendly cities.
- America’s top 50 most bike-friendly cities.
- Bicycle Clubs in the U.S. – actually not just clubs, but just about every bike link you’ll ever need is included here.
- Forming, Sustaining & Growing a Bicycle Advocacy Organization