Cycling – Good for You, Good for the Economy

By: Thomas L. Bowden, Sr. This was posted Tuesday, January 24th, 2012

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Looking south from 30th Street at bike lane in...

Image via Wikipedia

And now, for something completely different:

I ride my bike to work, whenever possible – preferably 5 days/week. I can take the short route which is only about a mile, or I can take a longer route, which is closer to 4 miles, and more scenic. Either way, if I drive, the car barely gets warmed up, so it’s hardly worth it. I used to commute 10 miles each way, but since I moved, I don’t have to do that, but I enjoyed that route too. Occasionally, people ask me why I do this and they usually assume I have some larger motivation. Mainly, though, I do it because I enjoy it and I think its good for me, physically and mentally.

There is, however, a very strong case for promoting bike commuting as a mainstream transportation mode. I recently wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post on the benefits of cycling, and how they should be welcomed regardless of party affiliation. For more, you can check out this, this or this.

The gist is: The economic benefits of cycling — not just for cyclists, but for the community at large, are staggering. Lower health-care costs benefit all of us. Having fewer cars on the road, especially at peak hours, reduces the need for expensive new roads and parking lots, and it means fewer deaths and injuries from vehicle-related accidents. Bike infrastructure projects create jobs too – more than 11 jobs per million dollars vs. 8 jobs per million for highway projects.
A safe bike-commuting environment can help people get to work even if they don’t have a car or can’t drive for any reason.

In Richmond, some 18 percent of households can’t afford a car, and 60 percent of households share a single car among several adults. Bikes can help them get and keep jobs. Right now, biking and walking make up 12 percent of all trips in the United States and cost about 2 percent of transportation dollars.

I’m not suggesting everyone can or should bike to work – it’s a matter of personal choice. But it seems to me that anyone who wants to should be able to do so in safety and without having to take elaborate detours or ride on sidewalks just to avoid becoming a traffic statistic.

When you consider how little of the transportation budget goes to meet the needs of this healthy and practical means of getting to work, fairness and common sense would seem to demand that we address the needs to cyclists in planning our streets and intersections, and accord the bicycle, one of the most elegant and efficient inventions ever devised by man, its rightful place on the roads, which we all pay for with our taxes, whether we drive, ride or walk.

How did you get to work today? Now, wouldn’t you feel better on a bike?

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  • I did some very unscientific and unofficial research based on other sources’ scientific and official research on the Web. It costs an average across the US of $16,000 per year to operate a car, NOT including the cost of the vehicle. This does include highway construction and repair, tolls, insurance, registration, maintenance, fuel, and many other costs. I commute on a recumbent trike 5-6 days a week to work and to Church. I even do much of my grocery and other shopping via trike. After falling in love with recumbent trikes, I started my business selling them. I rode 30 miles each way to my day job before retiring from Federal Government service. Southern California is not nearly as bike-friendly as one would think, and the entire State could benefit from more and better Bike Routes and Cycle-friendly planning.

    Yesterday, February 9, was a National Call-In Day for encouraging our legislators to preserve dedicated federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and Safe Routes to School programs. I haven’t heard anything of the results yet, but hopefully our elected officials will have more sense than to ignore the cycling community.

    Posted by: Terry "Hoppy" Dean | February 10th, 2012 at 3:18 pm
  • I totally agree with your article, philosophy and facts presented. I live in a more rural area and go to work in the dark which makes me apprehensive about attempting riding my bike to work. Some of the obstacles I face are hills, no shoulder on the road and high speed limits. If I can figure out a way to feel safe by riding my bike to work I would love to do it. Any suggestions?

    Posted by: Patricia Amsterburg | February 10th, 2012 at 8:10 am
  • This makes perfect sense to me. The great returns that come from a relatively small investment in this type of transportation should be obvious to those who plan the transportation systems of our communities.

    Posted by: Bruce Chulka | January 24th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

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