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Q How do you promote cycling in a medium-sized city where to drive anywhere takes 10 minutes but to cycle takes significantly longer? – Nicole Noël of Windsor, ON
A Many bike commuters I know list numerous reasons why they prefer to get around by bike. Each can list several benefits, but rather than revisit how cycling makes us feel good or helps lessen our impact on traffic and the environment, let’s face the fact that convenience and time savings will trump most other reasons.
Bikes often beat cars in many cities, and in a society where time and convenience are paramount for commuters; this is a big reason for the rise in people biking.
But one of the things I appreciate even more about biking in cities is how predictable travel times are. When driving or taking transit, most delays are out of your control. Whether it is traffic jams (during rush hours or not), collisions or construction, all that drivers and transit riders can do is wait. However, bicyclists (or walkers for that matter) can easily find alternate routes around many traffic obstacles. When I’m biking, I can usually predict within a minute or two when I’ll arrive at work, the store, a friend’s house or any other destination I’ve biked to before.
To win the convenience or timesaving argument in medium sized or small cities, we may need to emphasize the time savings from multitasking.
For some people, running errands or commuting by bike is their quiet time to think or just be outside, but all of us get exercise when biking. Finding the time to exercise is a losing proposition for most people in North America. Alarming obesity rates are strong evidence that our lifestyles are starved for exercise, and only about 20 percent of the population gets the minimum 30 minutes of recommended daily physical activity. People just have too much to do. With our car-centric development, we have engineered physical activity out of our travel. When bicycling, you not only get from A to B, you are getting your daily dose of exercise as a bonus. Indeed, there are lots of other bonuses – casually meeting friends and new people, being outside, experiencing architecture – but all of us need exercise. By using a bicycle, even if the trip takes marginally longer, two (or more) tasks can be accomplished, saving time overall. It’s the ultimate win-win scenario.
I’m reminded of a quote often shared by US Congressman Earl Blumenauer, “Let’s have a moment of silence for all the people stuck in traffic on their way to the gym so they can exercise on a stationary bike.”
Jeffrey Miller is the president/ CEO of the Alliance for Biking & Walking, a coalition of nearly 200 state, provincial and local bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organizations across North America.