I thought it might be time to explore why biking matters to me.
The "quick" answer is because it's environmentally friendly, it's great for the wallet, it promotes healthy living and lifestyle choices and it's a social justice matter. What do all these things really mean? Let me explain.
It's environmentally friendly. In a world where we're addressing the issue of climate change, doing my part to minimize my impact on the planet is important to me. Whether you believe it in or it, it's still part of the national dialogue of current events. Driving my car puts 10,593 lbs of carbon emssions in the air. When I ride my bike, I don't produce those emissions. Therefore, I feel like I'm doing what I can to live a minimalistic lifestyle.
It's great for the wallet. Gas is expensive. Whether it's $3 a gallon or $4 a gallon, you still have to pay. And there's the non-ecnomic costs, too. (See above.) When I ride my bike, it costs me calories. (See below.) Biking is one of the most fuel efficient modes of transportation. Hands down. I'm a frugal person by nature, and this arguement is THE ONE that got me started. When I was a grad student, paying my own way, I looked to cut as many costs as possible. Biking saved me money on gas and on a parking permit.
It promotes healthy living and lifestyle choices. I was a competitive swimmer over the course of my academic life, from the time I was in kindergarten through my senior year in college. I loved being active, I loved the comradery and I loved eating what I wanted, er, I mean, staying in shape. As that time in my life came to pass, I still needed an outlet for my engery and to help me cope with stress. Bicycle commuting was an ideal way for me to get that physical fitness fix. Like swimming, I was up and moving early, providing me an energy boost in the morning. By the evening, I could pedal away my stress from the workday. (*Disclaimer: I am NOT a morning person, so, those of you who claim you're not able to because you'd have to get up 20 minutes earlier, get over it.)
There have been a number of studies and hundred of stories of how biking has impacted individual lives in ways related to health, wellness and postive lifestyle choices: losing weight, managing stress, providing a positive, fun outlet and many more. Some folks get hooked into biking, and tours take them to local farms where they learn about the benefits of eating local. Others are craving community, and joining the local bike group gives them a space to meet people who share a common interest.
It's a social justice matter. Everyday I see people in whose only means of transportation is a bike. I saw them in Madison, Wisconsin, and I see them in Clemson and Central, South Carolina. I think about these people a lot. The people I see tend to be older, less agile than your twenty or thirty-something-spandex-let's-do-this! crowd. My concerns for older folks, and anyone who rides as their major for of transportation, is providing a safe route that connects to (major) destinations. I live less than 10 miles from Clemson University, and on one road, a major route for the community, there are several grocery stores, restuarants, the library, the public recreation center, several neighborhoods/apartment complex, day care facilities, clothing stores and city hall. All of this is along a dangerous yet identified, marked "bike route." How do people who's major means of movement is by bike feel about these conditions?
I'll even go as far as to reach out to include the "peak oil" people or include the "what do we do when gas goes to $5 a gallon?" rant. Even though I don't feel passionate about these topics, building a bike network might allievate some of those concerns. It's not my favorite pro-bikeway arguement, but I'll take it.
Biking started out as a way to cut back a few dollars, but it's become much more to me over the last several years. How has cycling impacted your life? I loved it as a kid, and actually getting back on my bike as an adult was fun, but it did take some time. I have come to see it as a safe transportation option and fun recreation choice that we should have. I see investing in bikeways as a really good thing, and an answer to many problems that we face today.