by Hyuntae Byun
In the 1900s, many citizens believed that the future would feature tube trains and flying cars. Although these futuristic forms of transportation have not yet been developed, it appears that there is a form of transportation that is poised to become a mainstream alternative to cars: bikes. Already, major cities around the world are adopting policies and standards to encourage cycling, ranging from innovative bike sharing programs to lane dividers between bikers and drivers.
A study conducted at Yale University found that while historically city engineers have favored automobile-based urban layouts, “modern principles of city engineering focus on making neighborhoods walkable and easily accessible for bicycles.” Biking is quickly proliferating, with cities such as Portland and Seattle rapidly adopting it as a method of encouraging citizens to conserve fuel, work out, and reduce traffic.
Furthermore, biking is a self-fulfilling virtuous cycle. Doctor Julie Hatfield, an injury expert, states in a study conducted at the University of New South Wales that “the likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle.” The same cannot be said of cars: with more cars on a road, the increased traffic and chaos tends to result in more accidents.
It’s clear that biking is healthier than driving; the former involves constant motion and involvement of muscles, whereas the latter frequently involves sitting in a slow-moving vehicle for hours at a time. This is corroborated by research; on average, bicycle commuters lose 13 pounds in their first year of cycling alone, and biking provides very effective cardiovascular benefits, according to Lisa Callahan, MD, of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.
A usually-overlooked benefit of biking is that cyclists on average inhale less harmful air than drivers. Umbra Frisk, a journalist at the Grist, notes that “studies show you get the biggest hit of the nasties when you’re inside a car… [automobile] occupants are very close to sucking on the tailpipe of the [automobile] just ahead of them… and bikers and pedestrians are on the outskirts.”
If the reduced accident rates and health benefits weren’t enough to incentivize biking, cycling is also financially responsible; according to AAA, the cost of owning a car in 2012 was around 8,946 dollars a year, whereas the cost of owning a bike in the same year was about 308 dollars a year.
Given the benefits of biking, it’s clear that we as a society should encourage biking, rather than discourage it. Recreational and transportational cycling complement each other by raising awareness and reducing accident rates, and the overall trend toward cycling is great news from a health and environmental standpoint. Only a severely misinformed and misdirected person would attempt to argue the virtues of reducing cycling rates.
Sources: Yale Daily News, Business Insider, University of New South Wales, AAA