As an avid and long-time bike rider (for recreation and transport), I’ve always wondered why there aren’t more of us on the roads and in the streets using pedal-power to get around.
It’s pretty apparent where I live though, that it’s just not the ‘done thing’.
Here are 10 reasons why you ought to use a bike to get from A to B to C, and beyond:
1. It’s cheap! For only the cost of your bike (and that cost is purely up to you – alongside the limited costs in wear and tear, depending on how and where you ride), you can practically go wherever you want, whenever you dare, without the cost of fuel, registration or parking.
2. It’s healthy. Accident potential aside (according to bicyclinginfo.org, bicycle fatalities represent less than 2% of all traffic accidents), using your bike will have you burning calories and exercising your heart, your arms, your legs and your midsection, without you even thinking about it.
After a few weeks to and from work, the shops or your mate’s place, you’ll suddenly find everything much less of a strain.
3. Drivers need to get used to us. Where I reside (mostly in Brisbane, Australia) bicycles on the road aren’t all that common and most of the time, people will give you a berth of about five metres (around an entire lane) just to overtake you. They slow to a crawl behind you if there isn’t enough room for a pass or sometimes get upset that you’re in their way.
The more often road users see cyclists around, the more practice they’ll have at manoeuvring past us, and the more used to us they’ll surely become, making driving conditions more amicable for all.
4. The environment will thank you. This is an obvious one, not to be overlooked. While cars today are cleaner than they once were, there are more than ever on the road. According to the Queensland government website, Australia alone produces an average of 6 tonnes of pollutants per year. Just taking your bike out once a week instead of driving is a perfectly simple way to reduce your impact on the earth.
5. Clearer roads. Biking takes cars off the road, increasing efficiency, making drivers happier, and creating more seats on public transport. A Sydney, Australia initiative to have 10% of all city trips be made on bikes would lead to a ‘saving on congestion’ of $97.8 million by their target time of 2016. This could be called a ‘no-brainer’.
6. It’s fast! In cities where the roads are flat and bike lanes are plentiful, using a bike can actually save you time. There’s no waiting in traffic or for missed buses or trains. Cycling’s efficiency for short trips around the inner city speaks for itself: most car trips in Sydney are less than five kilometres, or around 15 minutes by bike.
My usual ride from North West London into Soho in London’s inner West, was faster than driving and was even faster than the tube.
7. Improved cycling infrastructure. If your local city council sees a demand for bike-friendly routes, they’re going to start catering more to riders.
London’s mayor Boris Johnson proposed special traffic lights for cyclists that sit lower so they’re within a cyclist’s vision and turn green before the car traffic lights do, giving those with pedal power a bit of a head start off the line. Now on trial on London, these are the kind of traffic lights that have long been used in cycle-friendly countries like Netherlands.
Check out Brisbane’s cycle centres, which the city created for cyclists to lock their bikes securely, shower, change and freshen up before heading to the office. The centers even have tools available for tinkering or repairs.
8. Technological advancements. As cycling becomes more popular, so too is bike-related research and development. Examples include folding bikes, electric bikes, bike-powered USB chargers, hidden rear cameras to let you see what’s behind and a special hub that can turn your bike into an electric hybrid.
The more we ride, the more companies will be encouraged to do awesome things for those of us who are into cycling.
9. Being part of a community. You’ve probably heard of car clubs, but there are also clubs that revolve around pedal power. Think of a group of people meeting up for a tour around your city or community: you can ride along together, chatting, sharing your thoughts and musings inspired by your surroundings.
There’s a local bike shop in my hometown of Brisbane, Australia, that hosts a weekly Saturday ride, where a group of people meet at the shop just after sunrise and are taken on a selected loop of a pocket of our city, visiting it’s beautiful surroundings and exploring meandering bikeways. Search the internet for a bike club in your local area.
10. Freedom! My absolute favourite thing about riding my bike is the freedom that it offers. Wind in your face, no set paths or routes to take (if you dare), and the ability to wander, meander, cruise or belt it at your own speed, anywhere you please.
Start using a bike to get around, and I’m sure you’ll also experience the same exhilaration, the same sense of freedom, and the same thrill.
Now get out there, ride, and spread the word!
Carlos Hurworth is an Australian writer, thinker and neotroubador with a keen passion for heavy metal music, thrill rides, common sense, language, love, the longevity of the earth and the human race, mind expansion, photography and tomatoes. Constantly inspired by everyday life, he has travelled the world extensively, and been lucky enough to live in many of it’s corners, constantly putting pen to paper and fingers to keys. His work has appeared in print numerously in Adbusters magazine and various indie online blogs, and he is currently working on some major projects, one of them exploring life growing up during the war in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990’s. The evolution of his writing and many of his thoughts can be found on his personal blog. Carlos’s aim in life is to make people think.
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Assistant Ed: Renée Picard/Ed:Kate Bartolotta