Listing the benefits of bicycling makes it sound like one of those old patent medicines: “guaranteed to cure all your ills.” But the simple truth is that bicycling is good for the air, the water, the earth, the quality of life in our community, helps to conserve energy, increases property value, increases business, and makes our streets and highways more efficient and, at the same time is good for our health, makes us more fit, and its fun!
Here is a quick look at the ten top reasons why bicycles are good!
1. Bicycling is good for family-friendly communities. A recent survey of potential home buyers found that 93 percent said “quiet, low traffic areas were very or extremely important” in selecting the type of community they want to live in. More than 70 percent of the home buyers cited bicycling facilities as important to their decision. Parents recognize that children are more independent in bicycle friendly communities. Women between the age of 30 and 50 tend to make far more vehicle trips than men–largely due to the “chauffeur” role they play in delivering children to various after-school destinations. Safe bicycle routes liberate both parents and children.
2. Bicycling increases property values. Studies have shown that property values climb in neighborhoods near newly built bicycle-pedestrian trails. “Community designs that deliver low traffic and quiet streets. ” “Lots of natural, open space” and “Walking and biking paths” were the top three priorities among 39 features identified by home buyers as crucial factors in their home-purchasing decision.
3. Bicycling contributes to community safety. Streets full of cyclists have a calming effect on motorists. Communities with high rates of cycling tend to have reduced rates of traffic deaths and injuries among bicyclists and pedestrians. It is estimated that for every dollar invested in bicycle and pedestrian improvements, we save double this amount in medical costs from averted traffic accidents. Many successful community policing programs around the nation is the bicycle -mounted police squad. Placing cops on bikes (as we do here in Ojai) has proved effective in fostering goodwill among residents of crime-plagued neighborhoods, while the crime-fighting virtues of the bicycle — stealth, speed, all-terrain mobility — are well-established.
4. Bicycling improves air quality and the health of the community. Place any living creature in a closed system and turn on even a brand new combustion engine and death is the result. Our Earthly atmosphere is a closed system about 10 miles high. The burning of fossil fuels, primarily from cars, busses and trucks is contaminating the single most important ingredient for human health–clean air. An average four-mile round-trip bike trip prevents nearly 15 pounds of air pollutants from contaminating the air.
5. Bicycling conserves energy and resources. Bicycle trips are most likely to displace short car trips, which are less fuel efficient than longer trips. Bicycle transportation saves an estimated 700 million gallons of fuel annually. By making our communities safe and practical for bicycling, bicyclists could save the U.S. as much as three billion gallons of fuel each year.
6. Bicycling helps relieve traffic congestion. Bicycle improvements can encourage motorists to shift some of their short automotive trips to bicycling. Approximately 40% of all car trips are less than two miles in length.
7. Bicycling is economical. Bicycling is the most-cost effective mode of transportation. The cost of operating a car has climbed 300 percent in the last 20 years. Growing numbers of families find that the replacement of a commuter car with a commuter bike can restore thousands of dollars annually to the household budget. Critics point out that we make a grave error by measuring time gained by speed as miles per hour while sitting in our car. We forget the time spent in earning money to pay for the vehicle, insure it, and maintain it, which in an overall view of our lives is the real measure of our time. From a broader perspective (calculating the hidden costs of driving), it is estimated that cars actually deliver us at speeds of about five miles per hour. One quarter of our waking lives are spent in performing the involuntary activities associated with the automobile-transportation system.
8. Bicycling is good for the economy. Besides increasing property values, we cannot afford to overlook that Ojai has a tourist based economy. Tourists love to visit places where they can conveniently park once and forget the stress of driving. “Car-Free Vacations”, “Carless Vacations”, destinations known as a “Bicycle-Pedestrian Paradise” or “Walkable Cities”, are recognized as both desirable for visitors and local residents who find noise and congestion from traffic to be the single most annoying side effect from tourists. Retailers are recognizing that healthy revenues do not depend on heavy car traffic and lots of parking. Cars don’t shop–people do! Studies show that bicycle-pedestrian friendly street designs creates a shopper friendly atmosphere which increases retail business. Plus bicycles free up valuable car parking spaces for those people who must drive.
9. Bicycling promotes health and fitness for people of all ages, including our older population. Bicycling is a lifelong, low impact aerobic activity available to almost anyone. Modern gearing allows every user to find his or her own level of effort. Three wheelers with large baskets can be used by older adults riding for the first time. The role of the bicycle in keeping older people healthy and independent is just beginning to be explored. One study suggests that if one quarter of the nations sedentary adults — 20 million people-would exercise moderately on a regular basis, savings to the healthcare system would exceed $5 billion.
10. Bicycling is fun! Actually, bicycling is more than fun. It is a spiritually uplifting, consciousness raising, mind expanding experience. Riding your bike connects you to the earth and everything you see all around you.
Lesscars.org: Website for the publisher of Auto Free Times and Alliance for a Paving Moratorium