Ride For The Joy Of It

 

May is National Bike Month

Remember the freedom of that first luscious bike ride out the drive, down the block to a friend’s house?  Oh the joy of being on the move, deciding what the day would bring independent of Mom and Dad.

Americans of all ages love to bicycle. More than 40 million of us ride—more than play basketball, golf, tennis or soccer, ski or run, according to the National Sporting Goods Association. Bicycling is fun. It takes us outdoors and keeps us fit. We revel in knowing it’s all so environmentally friendly.

Let’s start with a few factoids:

• Choosing to bike a short commute to school or work keeps 15 pounds of car exhaust from polluting the air we breathe. (WorldWatch Institute)

• Forty percent of us say we’d cycle more if bike-friendly facilities were available. As many as 80 million Americans look for bikeways, walking paths and sidewalks when choosing where to live. (Rodale Press and Bureau of Transportation Statistics)

• Fifty-two hometowns nationwide have earned coveted designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community. More will be announced this month. For a current list see bicyclefriendlycommunity.org/list.htm.

Bike Benies & Events

The League of American Bicyclists has the wheels in motion for Bike-to-Work Week May 15-19. New riders and those always eager to learn more about being road-ready, will find bikeleague.org a treasure trove of information. See “Find It” under Ride Resources for a list of local riding clubs, events, bike shops and other expert resources sorted by zip code. 

Bicycles cost far less than automobiles to purchase and maintain, and don’t require expensive gasoline. They’re already saving Americans hundreds of millions of gallons a year. Earth-policy.org reports that in 2000 worldwide production of bicycles exceeded 101 million versus 41 million cars. A full fifth of these were made for Americans.

Yes we know that bicycling provides an aerobic workout, reduces stress and leaves the environment as clean and quiet as we found it. Unlike cars, bikes cause little wear and tear on roads, and six to 20 slide into a parking slot. They cut congestion and up the safety of cities. The more citizens who bike, the more social a town feels. Visitors throng to it, providing a boon to the local economy. Even public transportation benefits. Not to mention the overall atmosphere of health and well-being.

Look at places as diverse as Chicago, Boulder, Albuquerque, Gainesville, Portland, Tucson, Ann Arbor, Boca Raton, Miami, Denver, Orlando and Washington, D.C. The thing they have in common is bicyclists, thousands of them. Ultimate recognition, though, goes to Davis, California, population 64,300.

“Bike lanes and trails permeate this prize-winning community and enable people of all ages to ride to school, to work, and for recreation and errands,” says Andy Clarke, executive director of the League of American Bicyclists. ”The city and university also have exemplary education, encouragement and enforcement programs.”

Tim Bustos, who’s been bicycle/pedestrian coordinator for Davis, illustrates the attraction of 100 miles of streets with bike lanes, trails, routes along quiet streets and thousands of bike racks. Major intersections deftly separate bicycle and motor vehicle traffic.

The good news is that the feds too have begun to get their act together. U.S. spending on bicycling and walking infrastructure has zoomed from $4-6 million a year in 1991 to $400-$500 million a year today.

Fit for Fun

As the weather improves, 37 percent of us will mount a bike just for the fresh air and scenery, while 41 percent will trade indoor spinning and other aerobic programs for healthy outdoor exercise. Let’s hope that more than a few of us learn the joy of biking to work. Even recreational bicycling at 9 to 14 mph burns an average of 400 to 540 calories—more than walking, roughly half

Just remember to wear a helmet and leather-palmed sport gloves and keep the bike tuned and in good repair. As one writer notes, “There are cyclists who have bicycled thousands of miles a year for decades without a crash, not because of a special bicycle, glitzy equipment or luck, but because they maintained their bike, had the right equipment and learned how to ride safely.” How we learn to ride as children sets our course for joyful riding for years to come. 
   
For more information visit bikeleague.org, email Elizabeth@bikeleague.org or call 202-822-1333 ext. 215.

 

Source:
by S. Alison Chabonais

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