Three Reasons You Should Have and Use a Bike

Yesterday on a train, I was asked to take yet another survey on transportation and transit. I take every survey that comes my way because I have strong opinions on the subject, but for the last year and a half or so, I have been embarrassed about my answer to one of the questions: how many cars do you have?

The difference between a car and a bike

Why you should include a bicycle in your transportation mix.

I hate admitting we have two cars and two licensed drivers because it implies that everyone in our household who can drive has a car. The truth is that one of the cars gets driven about once a month–primarily to keep the oil circulating and the wheels rotated. (The reason for this “spare” care is a future post.)

While cars have a reasonable (and important) place in the lives of most of us, I firmly believe that not only should a bicycle be in every person’s transportation mix, it should be the go-to vehicle. Why?

Because so many trips are cycleable

Data from the 2009 National Household Transportation survey shows that the average length of trips taken in the U.S. was 9.7 miles and that 40% of all trips taken by Americans are less than two miles. Two miles is so easy to ride, and anyone from two to 70 years old or even weighing 570 pounds can do it.

You can probably go two miles faster on a bike than in a car. Yesterday I went to the bank during lunch…a trip of 2.12 miles. Round trip riding time: 16 minutes. Between getting out of my building’s parking lot, navigating the downtown streets, and finding (and paying for) parking at the bank, driving would have taken MUCH longer. Two miles is also about the amount of time it takes a car motor to warm up; and remember that cars are at their most polluting before they warm up.

Because it improves your quality of life

It almost goes without saying that riding a bike is fun…wind in your hair and all that…but cycling has tangible benefits as well. You can power and even repair a bike yourself–saving money on gas and car repairs that you can spend on movie tickets, dinners, or anything else you enjoy. Riding regularly will keep you thinner and more healthy so that you can enjoy all the other activities in your life. Riding a bike puts you in contact with your neighborhood and neighbors, contributing to a sense of place and belonging that studies have shown to contribute to our security and well-being.

Because it improves everyone else’s quality of life

Bicycles produce no asthma-inducing air pollution, no ear-wearying noise pollution, and take much (very much) less space to drive and park, making for more walkable communities. They also reduce urban sprawl, preserving valuable farmland and contributing to urban renewal efforts in our cities.

Putting your car where it belongs

Several years ago, I implemented a rule that keeps my car last on the list of transportation options: I never drive anywhere I can reasonably get to some other way. Unlike dozens of other rules I have implemented over the years, this one has stuck around because it works. “Never” is strong enough to keep me out of the car generally, while “reasonably” gives me the flexibility to not be ridiculous by trying to put a propane cylinder on my bike when I need a refill.

Here’s a question for you: What trips could you take by bike that you are now taking by car? Share your answer in the comments below.

  • Annaliese C

    today I biked to work for the first time in over five years! it was awesome! It felt great to leave my car at home. It is 6 miles and it took me 40 minutes. It takes 20 minutes to drive and the traffic sucks. Biking is awesome. This might be the euphoria talking but bikes are the greatest invention ever — to be able to transport yourself that far, in that amount of time using only your own body is amazing.

    • http://kwinpeterson.com/ Kwin Peterson

      Glad to hear you had such a good experience!

  • Karthi

    Got a bike last month. My work is 10 miles away. So far I have been able to ride only 10 miles at a stretch. Hoping to bike more so that I can ride to and from work. Thinking of biking to grocery shop, coffee shop and anything nearby.

    • http://kwinpeterson.com/ Kwin Peterson

      Good luck building up to a work commute; it is worth it.

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