Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Let's Get Physical

Recently a friend has decided to take on the task of becoming a bit healthier. He’s overweight and is not the athletic/mover/shaker type. He wasn’t all that active in his younger years, and getting “back in shape” is a bit intimidating. Thoughts of “where do I start” and “what equipment/clothes/shoes/stuff do I need,”  have come up frequently during our conversations. After some encouraging dialogue and deeper thought, he’s considered taking on some major changes in his lifestyle.

One of the major issues that needed addressing was what kind of physical activity might be suited for him to help him lose weight, gain muscle and get a good cardiovascular workout. How break a sweat without breaking his back (or his spirit), so to speak.

So, he decided to take up bike riding as his preferred form of exercise. Using a bike designed for the indoors, he’s taking his changes in lifestyle in a serious matter. Biking indoors was a good move for him:  it would be a great way to get a good workout in without stressin his knees or ankles, he could wear whatever he wanted/not have to wear spandex and he could get a sense of accomplishment watching the miles (on the machine) pedal by. Riding a stationary bike made sense because there aren’t a lot of safe places to ride, especially for novices, where he lives. His focus ought to be on him and his goals – not having to look over his shoulder for traffic.

It was great to hear that he felt comfortable on a bike. Maybe his time on an indoor bike would build his confidence and eventual interest in riding outdoor solo, with a few friends or with a group. I’ve talked a lot about the bike as a form of transportation and recreation, but not very much as a form of exercise. It can kind of come across as a no-brainer, but it’s important to take a step back and recognize its role in healthy, active lifestyles. There are all kinds of races and places for all kind of riders – the Tour de France to, the Tour de LaFrance, Wheels for Meals, the Giordana Velodrome in Rock Hill, the Paris Mountain Downhill Race and many more. In Madison, Wisconsin many folks who train for the Iron Man start riding their bike to work just to get a few extra miles in. And if you’re not up to racing…yet…consider making your own riding goals. They could be distance or time based, number of rides in a week or month or changing your life to incorporate more rides in general.

I encourage you to set a bike riding goal for the coming season. Spring is a great time to get out or to start a new riding routine:  indoors or outside. How will you make some positive changes in your life this year?

Friday, March 7, 2014

SC in Biking National Limelight

...for the wrong reasons. It seems South Carolina is one of the most dangerous places to bike in the country according to a 2012 report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking.

An article in The Atlantic goes into detail about biking in the South, and highlights the state as one of the worst places to bike. Starting out with the story of a prominent community member who was hit on his bicycle (and dragged) in Charleston, the article highlights the challenges associated with the lack of dedicated bicycle infrastructure, funding and support at the state level for several states in the southeast. The article circles back around to mention that another person was hit in Charleston on the same day just a few hours after the first person. Not the way we like to make national news.

Even though there has been significant improvements to bicycle infrastructure and programs in communities across the state - Greenville, Easley, Spartanburg, Rock Hill and Charleston - we are years (if not decades) behind other places in the country. Spartanburg's bike share program and the bike lane on the Ravennel Bridge in Charleston are two bright spots in the article. However, if you frequent this blog, you know that progress continues. Biking in the Upstate - and across South Carolina - is getting better.

The Alliance for Biking and Walking is a national advocacy group that focuses its efforts on research, reporting and training advocates. Their benchmarking reports has been one of the de facto sources of information, especially when it comes to comparing one state to another. The reports are pretty powerful and attention grabbing. Some of the sobering facts related to the need for improving bicycle and pedestrian safety were highlighted by Jeff Miller, the Alliance's President/CEO, at the regional Georgia South Carolina Bike Summit I spoke at in 2012. I also attended one of their trainings in November 2011. So, the news about South Carolina came as no surprise...but that doesn't make it any less embarrassing. Especially when it's broadcasted at the national level.

However, there can be a silver lining to this piece. As South Carolina continues to grow and attract businesses, communities want to be known as fun, vibrant, accessible - not dangerous. This kind of attention can be catalyst, continuing to fuel the efforts at creating bicycle and pedestrian friendly places in South Carolina. Perhaps this kind of national media may spur local and state-level leaders and decision makers into action.