Biking around San Diego is something that I do nearly everyday. Usually, I ride the same route or a very similar one around town, which gives me a sense of familiarity with the roads and the flow of traffic. I know that when I cross this intersection, the bike lane essentially disappears and I need to keep my head on a swivel. I also know which roads are great on my tires and which roads are absolute garbage to ride on. I would never have this familiarity with the city if I wasn’t on my bike constantly.
Besides knowing my way around the city, biking allows to me be outside and get my sweat on. For me, the daily exercise biking gives me is one of the most important benefits of cycling around. Although my commute to work is a paltry 3 miles one-way, doing some physical exercise to start my day gets me off on the right pedal. This puts in me in a positive mood and ready to deal with (almost) anything that can be thrown at me that day.
Another important benefit of biking to work is that I’m not driving my silly car around town! First off, traffic in San Diego is absolutely miserable. On average it takes me about 15:37 to get from home to work and from work to home. Sure, on a perfect driving day with minimal traffic, my commute from home to work is probably around 8:30. So it takes me at least twice as long to get to work on my bike, on average. With afternoon San Diego traffic, though……oh boy. I better get ready for at least a 20 minute drive to cover a 3 mile distance.
The time spent on my bike in the mornings does not feel wasted like how time feels for me when I drive to work. Maybe I’m listening to music on my bike ride, the thumping beats and power chords of Green Day giving me an extra boost when I’m pedaling up a particularly insidious incline. Or maybe I’m listening to the silky smooth voice of Dan Carlin’s “Hardcore History” podcast, learning about the political intricacies and wartime dynamics of Europe during World War I. Either way, it feels as if I’m making the best possible use of my commute to and from work.
Jeff Speck’s “Walkable City Rules” Rule 52 is to Justify Biking Investment. Increasing the number of bike lanes and improving biking networks can reap enormous benefits for cities. One such benefit is the improvement of public health. A study followed more than 263,000 people for five years and found that those who biked to work were at much lower risk of dying prematurely, developing heart disease and developing cancer than non-bikers. Besides the short-term benefit of getting a solid morning workout in, biking clearly has long-term health improvements. If a city can get most of its people biking to work, not only will a city reduce traffic congestion and smog, but it will have a healthier populace, as well! A study conducted at the University of Northern Iowa found that those that cycled to work saved Iowa almost $87 million in health care costs. That’s an incredible number. That’s an additional $87 million that people can put into their state’s or city’s local economy, or save for themselves.
Speck’s book has tons of other interesting “rules” regarding biking that I’ll write about later. But for now, let’s all make more of an effort to get outside on our bikes and pedal around for a change. And, pedal for change. Bikes will not only help you, but help your neighborhood and cities, too.