Like many people my age, I grew up riding a bicycle. It wasn’t just for fun, but was practical transportation from my rural home a few miles outside our small Wisconsin town to wherever I wanted to go from the age of 10 or so until I got my driver’s license.
Now more and more people are biking, and the reasons are many and varied. After years riding a bike very sporadically (as evidenced by the dust and cobwebs I needed to clean off each time I took mine out of the garage), a few years ago I finally ditched my old 10-speed and got a new hybrid bike with a comfortable seat, which I’m trying to use more regularly. Knowing the pitfalls and perks I’ve experienced, I decided to delve deeper into why others make the effort to ride.
So, why bike? Here are four reasons I can think of:
One - Cheaper for you. For the price of a single car payment, you can buy a well-made bike that should outlast most cars. Though most households in the U. S. need at least one car, many could avoid the expense of a second vehicle by substituting the use of a bike. And with the cost of gas today, replacing even a short daily car commute with a bike will save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Two - Cheaper for the community. A 20-pound bicycle is a lot less rough on the pavement than a two-ton vehicle. Fewer cars mean fewer miles of roadways and bridges. What’s more, you can store a dozen bikes in the space it takes to park one car, so fewer parking lots are needed. Those vast expanses of concrete or asphalt have enormous environmental and financial impact, especially in urban areas.
Three - Greener for Planet. Obviously substituting leg power for a gasoline-powered engine is better for the environment. But there are other green bennies as well. A bike has a tiny manufacturing footprint compared to a car and is much easier to dispose of when it’s past its useful life. Think of the landfill space consumed by old cars and you start to get the idea.
Four - Good for Our health – The health benefit of regular aerobic exercise is well known. Not only is it good for your heart and lungs, but regular riding helps prevent many kids of chronic disease, including cancer. Biking increases strength, balance, flexibility, endurance and stamina. It’s a proven stress reliever. And then there’s the vanity appeal. Let’s face it – hardcore cyclers have amazing bodies. You can easily burn 600 calories per hour of cycling. Most bike commuters report losing 15 to 20 lbs. during their first year without changing their eating habits. And employers take note -- studies show that employees who regularly commute by bike are healthier, more productive and require less time off than those who drive a car.
Of course there are downsides to cycling, not the least of which is dealing with inattentive and careless drivers. Staying safe can definitely be a challenge anywhere other than on a trail. That challenge is partially being addressed through the development of more bike lanes and trails. Another challenge for those of us in northern climes is the weather, especially this past winter! You will never catch me on a bike in the snow or rain, but I figure cycling in good weather is better than not doing it at all. And for those who are willing to do it year round, more power to them.
Finally, there is the issue of where you put your stuff when using you bike, especially if you’re commuting to work or running errands. Many cyclists tote backpacks, which are often a good solution other than they are not particularly green. I’ve found a practical and green solution is to use my Nature Bag®. For a complete list of retailers and more info on the bags, visit the website at www.naturebag.org.
Peggy Huppert is the mother of three adult children, one step-son and three granddogs. She is a senior leader for a national health nonprofit and lives in the Twin Cities, USA area.
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