Bicycling is fun! More people want to bike to stay fit and cut pollution. New programs are aimed at making bicycling a safer and more attractive form of transportation.
Bicycling for 30 minutes 2 to3 days per week can help you loose weight, increase energy, and reduce stress. It is also a great way to save money on gas and to cut carbon emissions. Yet, there are hurdles to be overcome to make bicycling safer and new programs are aimed at getting more people to bicycle.
More People Want to Ride But Face Obstacles
Many people are hesitant to get out on the road because it can also be dangerous. There is a crippling lack of sidewalks, paths and crosswalks to keep bikers and walkers safe from motorized traffic. The most convenient routes to schools, shopping and offices are usually filled with motor vehicles. Most subdivisions are not connected to stores and neighbors with bicycle-friendly paths or traffic lanes.
Fortunately, this is changing. Global climate change is provoking decision makers to consider options. The obesity crisis and rising fuel prices are helping consumers to see the link between burning gasoline in cars and calories in bodies.
How Did Bicycling Become So Inconvenient?
The problem of unsafe bicycling routes accelerated not so long ago with the development of suburban housing developments. The people who lived in the suburbs could live at a distance from stores and work because they could use cars to conveniently access them. People began to live further and further away.
And people became fatter. Between 1980 and 2000, federal researchers found that the percentage of the US adult population classified as obese increased from 15 to 31 percent. According to a UCLA study, individuals who are obese have 30 to 50 percent more chronic medical problems than those who smoke or drink heavily. The number of school children who walk or bike to school has declined: down to 15 percent in 2001 from 50 percent in 1969. Concerned about children’s health, Congress approved $612 million in funding for five years for the states to implement Safe Routes to School programs to increase kids’ activity and fitness levels.
Safe Routes to School Helps Bodies and Minds
When more children begin to walk or bike to school again, there will be many benefits. Not the least of which is that children will build stronger bones, muscles and joints while losing weight. The walk or ride to school will increase overall wellness when the exercise gives children a sense of self-control and autonomy that is unavailable to them when being chauffeured to school. Health experts also agree that walking and biking to school will provide opportunities for social and environmental interaction that fosters emotional and intellectual development. Preliminary data shows that children who walk or bike to school are more alert and engaged when they arrive.
Friends and neighbors can get involved in improving children’s health, well being, and achievement. One way to help kids get active is to organize a walking school bus, where adults walk along the route to school and pick up children to walk with them in a supervised group. Similarly, the Centers for Disease Control offers help with a community-based Kids Walk-to-School program.
Biking Programs to Decrease Motor Vehicle Driving
Car-free and Car-lite diets are catching on with adults who are likewise concerned about their health as well as the health of the planet. In Arlington, Virginia, commuters are being encouraged to take the diet challenge and business owners are putting their companies on a diet. Using the diet calculator, dieters can calculate carbon and calorie savings. The calculator at nutristrategy.com, which cites that walking or biking for an hour can burn about 300 calories (depending upon weight, speed, and other variable), helps Arlingtonians add up their diet savings.
Bicycling is Health for People and the Planet!
Regular walking and biking provides many health benefits. A stronger heart and a lighter body as well as more energy and a positive mental outlook are benefits that have a far-reaching impact on quality and length of life. A car-free or car-lite diet can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer and osteoporosis.
So get going! Burn more calories and less carbon! Spend quality time with children while walking or biking to school. Get your exercise while you walk or bike your way to errands. Give up a ride in the car and gain the 30 minutes of exercise you need to maintain a healthier and longer life.