To maintain not only my physical health, but mental health as well as do my part to minimize my carbon footprint, I ride a bike – a lot, as in something like 150+ miles per week.
Most of those miles are via commuting back and forth to my office, take a round about way so it ends up being 40 miles a day. Been commuting for some 20+ years now and started commuting through the winter back in the early nineties. On top of that I am involved in a local cycling club, Blue Hills Cycling, based out of Milton, one of the suburbs of Boston doing rides with them and an occasional race here and there.
In those 20 years of commuting I have seen a steady, albeit slow increase in the number of commuters on the mean streets of Boston, after all, this was labeled as one of the least friendly bike towns in America (though the Mayor has found a new love for cycling so things are improving). With more bike commuters, it will only get better.
The dramatic increase rise in gas prices is leading to a huge bump-up in the number of commuters. Stopped into my local bike shop and they stated they have seen a big increase in both bike sales (commuter bikes) and lots of people dragging bikes out of their basements to be tuned-up so they can begin commuting.
This is truly great news for not only are these new commuters contributing to lowering the output of noxious green house gases produce by their gas guzzling SUVs, they are also contributing to their health. Spoke to one new commuter this week, who got started after her car was stolen. Guess what, she is loving the freedom of riding a bike and told me she never realized there were so many interesting things to see that she just missed when commuting within the cocoon of her car.
We talked about the health of Americans on this blog and elsewhere; the epidemic of obesity, the continual rise in type two diabetes, hypertension, etc. but guess what, a little exercise can ameliorate many of these ills. Maybe the rise in gasoline prices has a silver lining to it after all.
And speaking of riding, tomorrow I’m off on an epic, 146mile ride called the B2B (Brewery to Brewery), sponsored byt he local brewery, Harpoon (BTW, they make a great IPA). It starts at their brewery in Boston and ends at their satellite brewery in South Windsor VT. Will end up being 7+ hours in the saddle, but it really is a great time with great people and finishes with that great Harpoon beer and barbecue in Windsor.
Cycling is as much of a key to improving national healthcare for our citizens and children than EMRs and PHRs — if not more so! In Copenhagen and Amsterdam, more than 40% of daily commutes are done by bicycle. The BEST city in the US, Portland, Oregon, boasts a pathetic .5%! We can and must do better.
As a public health policy, every road in the US should be required to have a physically separated bike route located adjacent or nearby — one that is safe for children and adults. This has been the law in Holland for years, and should be here, too. Just imagine the positive impact on life and the reduction in greenhouse gasses such legislation could have here.
As John points out, cycling is also one of the best feel-good, health-giving activities. And the Dutch and Danes are among the happiest people on the planet. Many cities, including New York, are making enormous strides in making our public spaces pedestrian and bike friendly. Everyone interested in promoting healthcare should get behind these efforts.
Peter, you are so right.
Just imagine what might happen to our collective healthcare costs if 40% of the population began commuting by bike. Since the top five chronic diseases, which comprise some 80% of all healthcare costs, can be mitigated by healthy exercise (as well as healthy eating), we could indeed make a big dent in the ever escalating spiral that many state will crush the economy.
And you know what, cycling is actually a lot of fun. Can;t even begin to count how many people I have met who have recently taken up cycling to commute to work and all of them say the same thing: “Wow, I forgot how much fun it is to ride a bike.” They also commonly go on to state that they do feel better.
You are right Peter in that to get to that 40% we really need a complete re-think of our transportation architecture/philosophy. We are still, as a society, regrettably married to the car. But it looks like more and more are filing their divorce papers everyday. At some point, enough divorces will force that re-think.