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The growing popularity of cycling in America is a healthy trend. Careful studies have proven that cycling relieves traffic, benefits physical health and mental health, eases stress on the environment, and even boosts the local economy.But despite these benefits, cycling has met resistance from car drivers who don’t like to share the road and from city planners who haven’t taken cyclist safety into account.These obstacles must be overcome. Why? Because the benefits of bicycling directly attack some of the biggest threats to human and environmental health in the United States.American cities struggling with poor health, traffic congestion and pollution issues could be revolutionized by a bike-friendly approach. And growing cities could benefit from the insights we’ve gained into biking’s benefits and new methods of city planning proven to improve livability while saving money and improving bicycle safety.We know cycling is good, but in order to truly understand the importance of increasing the number of bikes on roads across the country, we must take a look at just how much it eases socio-environmental problems and improves city life.
Take public health, for example. America is struggling to cope with staggering rates of heart disease, obesity, depression, and a frightening increase in other physical and psychological problems. Our government can scarcely afford the cost, and our society is suffering.Bicycling gets at some of the root causes of this poor health. Cycling is great exercise. It builds muscle, burns fat, and is easy on the joints, making it accessible to young and old. The cardio exercise also stimulates and improves your heart, lungs and circulation, reducing your risk of cardiovascular diseases. This means a lot when you consider that one in four deaths in America are caused by cardiovascular disease.Cycling also replaces traffic – which creates air pollution that contributes to global warming and directly causes an estimated 53,000 premature deaths per year – with 100% emission free bikes. It also eliminates long car commutes, which are associated with higher weight, lower fitness levels, and higher blood pressure—all strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer. What are those stressful commutes replaced with? Bike rides that fight cancer, promote mental health, and increase workplace productivity.
Biking is also startlingly good for the economy. Cycling alone contributes an estimated $133 billion annually to the U.S. economy, supporting 1.1 million jobs and generating nearly $18 billion in tax revenues. It’s also been observed that stores in areas with more cyclists and bike lanes see higher sales and revenue than those in low bike traffic areas.
It’s time to invest more funding and energy into cycling. The research is there. We know that more cycling improves cities and eases global warming. We even know how to do it.Portland, San Francisco and even bustling New York have grown their bicycling communities – and improved cyclist safety at the same time – through proven methods. Protected bike lanes increase cycling while decreasing risk. And appropriately scaled bike share programs that offer bikes for rent or borrow from the city do the same. Between 2010 and 2015, there were over 62 million trips taken on public bike share in the US, and zero fatalities.Let’s bring these strategies to more cities. Let’s bring them to our growing cities. Let’s bring them to our future, and the future of our planet, to create a healthier and happier world.
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