Cycling as medicine

I was riding with Zach up Gutierrez Canyon and he said, “If cycling was a pill, everybody would be taking it.”  That’s a neat saying, but after pondering it for a while, I thought cycling is way more fun than taking a pill or vitamin. The benefits of cycling are proven medically effective, and the evidence keeps mounting.

The Specialized Foundation uses cycling as a tool for children to achieve academic, health and social success through their Riding for Focus program.  The Foundation partners with Stanford University to better understand the effects of cycling on the learning process in children.  It’s pretty incredible to see the positive results of cycling becoming more visible.

Play is a huge part of learning!  Cycling play promotes mental health and overall wellbeing.  As a team sport, it builds social connections and a sense of belonging.  When we do high intensity intervals on the bike, the mind focuses on exercise and nothing else.  The goal-oriented part of the brain gets more oxygen causing a focus-shift away from the other parts that might be stressed.  This exercise-focused goal-orientation leads to mental relaxation.  The following study by Global Cycling Network goes into the details more.  Basically the same kind of exercise doctors prescribe for heart patients is also good for our heads, and more.

The bottom line is the value produced by cycling is so positively impactful, we’ll have to create a new economic model to measure it.  The rewards to the individual and society are only just beginning to be understood.  The bicycle is releasing so much human potential!  Kudos to everyone making an effort to harness it more, including the people riding bicycles.

“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” –H.G. Wells

Further reading:
Kids are getting on bikes sooner and having more fun: https://bikeinitiative.org/2017/08/25/cycling-for-kids-strider-bikes-and-specialized-foundation/
Cycling as a national investment: https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/the-bicycle-is-americas-vehicle/
The Specialized Foundation: https://www.specializedfoundation.org

Cycling connects us with nature, too, which is good medicine

Expanding the cycling movement

The bike movement, which was accustomed to being a little movement, hasn’t necessarily figured out how to be a part of the broader landscape of social change.  –“Bike Advocacy’s Blind Spot

Southwest Bike Initiative is about increasing and expanding the positive impacts walking, cycling, and great transit add to our lives.  To do that, we have to open up the dialogue and see how sustainable transportation benefits and fits into the fabric of our whole communities.  To grow the relevancy of cycling in particular, we have to build a coherent, united bike movement first.  That’s why the new partnership between USA Cycling and the League of American Bicyclists is exciting.

USA Cycling is the national governing body for the sport of cycling in the United States, and the League of American Bicyclists is a nationwide bicycling advocacy organization.  By formally uniting efforts, they are recognizing how integral all the different aspects of cycling engagement contribute to growing the movement.  Cycling is a holistic activity that brings together so many elements of what is important to upbuilding human lives and communities.  But so often we separate out cycling into categories such as “transportation” and “recreation” even though that is not really how it works in our daily lives.  In reality we know cycling is both transportation and recreation, and often simultaneously. Think of cars, for instance, which are driven for commutes and recreational purposes.  Cycling works the same way.  And just like cars, bicycles are also about design, art, expression, desire, in addition to being very useful mobility technologies!

And that is where I think we are going with the cycling movement.  It reaches way beyond cycling! It is about seeing every form of human movement as integral in our transportation systems, and understanding transportation’s impact on our lives together.  The larger question is how we adapt our mobility technologies to meet our needs without imposing undue costs on ourselves or others.  Bicycles show us how to use mobility technology as a technology of contact that deepens our engagement with health, our surroundings, the well-being of the whole environment.

In this way cycling is a primer on how to behave in the travel environment.  Bicycles lend themselves to teaching us how to travel respectfully in the context of everything else we need in the places we live, work and play.  Cycling activates our senses.  We tune in.  It connects us.  Cycling teaches us how to manage vehicles in balance with our vulnerable human selves, our animality, our emotionality, so that we feel connected with our surroundings, and our own inherent mobility powers. Learning to drive bicycle vehicles teaches us how to use all kinds of transportation, including motor vehicles, in a lower-impact, kinder and more sensible fashion.  Cycling helps us learn travel skills with respect for ourselves and others.  Sharing the road is about coordinated movement.  The skills we learn through cycling can be applied everywhere.

Uniting the cycling movement is a beginning for uniting citizens in the public realm which serves as our transportation environment.  This is where we begin to see we are really no different, and learn how to better interact with each other.  It is not about one particular use or only one way of moving, rather it is about people being free and learning how to live with dignity, so we feel like we are not just moving through, but are here to stay.  It’s about belonging and feeling good about our lives and the prospects for our children’s future.  The cycling movement is leading the way.

The cruiser criterium at the Iron Horse Bicycling Classic was spectacular

References and resources:
USA Cycling and the Bike League join forces:  https://www.bikeleague.org/content/usa-cycling-and-league-announce-partnership

The opening quote is from an article in City Lab that asks good questions about how the bike movement can include more people and address social inequalities.  https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/07/is-bike-infrastructure-enough/565271/

Lots to think about regarding how cycling knowledge, skills, and practicing a more sustainable transportation culture can be building blocks for reaching UN’s Sustainable Development Goals:

From my personal blog, here’s an attempt at discussing movement as a metaphor for change, and weaving together a more sustainable world:  https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/cycling-and-walking-to-get-our-bearings/