“Imagine if a team of scientists devised a drug which massively reduced people’s chances of developing cancer or heart disease, cutting their overall likelihood of dying early by 40%….That drug is already here, albeit administered in a slightly different way: it’s called cycling to work.” —The Miracle Pill
“The benefits of physical activity are just so overwhelmingly large.”–Cycling to work means better health and a longer life. Here’s how to get started.
On September 8 the Washington Post published an article on cycling to work in their Health & Science section. It relates scientific evidence of cycling’s amazing benefits to the real life experiences of six bike commuters, making the benefits palpable. One commuter, Carlos, says he’s saved $7000. Another, Tricia, says cycling helps you see your city “in a way you’ve never seen it before”, and cycling to work clears her head. “It’s exercise, there’s sunshine and it’s really cheap. It makes me happier.” All of the commuters interviewed for the article “said they liked how biking built exercise into their day.” It makes exercise come naturally and easily.
Not exercising is definitely risky. Humans are designed to move. But is cycling perceived to be safe? Even though cycling crashes resulting in a death are relatively rare, Southwestern cities—Albuquerque, Tucson, Las Vegas, and Phoenix—led the nation in cycling crash rates in 2014-2015. The growth boom of Southwestern cities after WWII produced a “transportation infrastructure focused almost exclusively on the private motor car” (from the FHWA doc. linked below). This is definitely a wake up call that we need to prioritize cyclist safety so the public feels more confident making healthy decisions. Southwest Bike Initiative focuses on improving traffic safety and service for all travelers here in the Southwest US so citizens can share in the prosperity of cycling’s restorative effects.
One super cool thing about cycling to work is it shifts our perspective. By changing behavior, changes in attitudes follow. When I’m cycling I feel more connected and compassionate. Our city’s purpose is to nurture our citizen’s collective well-being. We don’t want to be fit into a system that doesn’t make us fit or enhance our fitness. Choosing independent movement through a self-powered vehicle like a bicycle makes us fitter, and is therefore very fitting. It takes a new vision and education to positively change our social norms and habits, and leadership from the community. It’s a matter of conscious choice and free will. Carol says in the Washington Post article: “I think a lot of people have this idea that ‘real cyclists’ will look down on them if they only bike some of the time, or only for short distances, but there are no ‘real cyclists’; there are just people who put on their clothes and get on a bike.” Cycling really is for everyone.
Kenneth Burke—“people may be unfitted by being fit in an unfit fitness.” quoted in The Well-Tempered City by Jonathan F.P. Rose