Dear America: Embrace the bike culture…It’s heart healthy

I love cycling. Being outdoors, pedaling, feeling the swoosh of the wind, these are all sensations that more people should enjoy. They are sensations of happiness. And oh, does the heart love happiness.

I also love my country. America is an amazing place. If you take a moment to really look past the mundane of everyday life, you see a country that has a lot to offer its human inhabitants. Try this for a day: put yourself in the shoes of a foreigner.

But when Americans fight cycling, I find myself in a quandary. How could a smart, compassionate and successful nation not see the benefits of cycling?

This morning, the WSJ published an essay from an Alexandria Virginia resident who bemoaned the efforts of citizens to increase the presence of bikes. Truthfully, compared to other anti-bike vitriol, this was a measured piece.

I’m not seeing it.

This is a bad thing, how?
This is a bad thing, how?

Maybe Americans don’t travel enough. If they could see the difference between an American city and Amsterdam, they might feel differently. And this thought-nugget isn’t just a Mandrola-ism.

The Huffington Post recently published this compelling essay that laid out why Denmark leads the way in happiness. Cycling as a way of life was cited as the fourth factor. Others were taking care of parents, health care as a right, gender priority and having a positive attitude about its harsh climate. Go figure these things lead to happiness.

I am both a driver and a cyclist. It is clearly true that both parties need to offer more compassion—concern for others—to each other. Cyclists know what aggravates drivers. They can help their cause by being considerate. Drivers also need to be mindful that their big vehicles and inattention frighten cyclists. Getting buzzed too closely sends surges of adrenaline through the body. Such is not healthy.

Urban planning could become just like medicine: When it comes to big-car culture, less is more. Promoting human-powered transportation is a win-win-win. It’s good for the people, for the city and for the environment. Just ask the Northern Europeans.

JMM

3 comments

  1. Urban planning is the issue. Where I live there few bike lanes or even sidewalks. And believe me bikers aren’t the only ones who are afraid. When someone is biking on a busy narrow roadway during rush hour traffic it is hazardous for everyone. A few months ago I witnessed a situation where a cyclist fell off his bike and was narrowly missed by the car behind him. Instead, the driver chose to swerve into oncoming traffic and the car on that side of the road had to go off the road. The driver of both cars were ticketed for the action of the biker. This is the stuff that makes us angry.

    1. I’m coming to believe it’s hopeless for this country. When we lived in North Carolina, the new subdivisions being built did not have sidewalks. Why should they? Parents drive their kids everywhere, no one walks, why waste the concrete? People won’t ride a bike because they’re too scared of the cars. Politicians and urban planners see no bicycles, so they don’t perceive a need for bike lanes. Cities that do institute bike shares have mixed results. The car culture is so pervasive in the US that I don’t know how we’ll ever undo it. That said, some cities have stepped up. Tucson passed a law that all new roads, and all upgraded roads must have a bike lane. Most of the time it’s a repurposed shoulder, but it’s better than nothing. It’s just beyond me as to me why so many people work against their own self interest by not exercising.

  2. Dr. J, you are correct most Americans do not have passports. 3 out of 5 Americans can’t even fly to Canada! Overall only 39% of the population has a passport. It is no wonder most Americans think we are the best country in the world, have the greatest health care, and pay way too many taxes, they have never left town, and don’t care to.

    “One less Car,” is our cry out here in the Boulder Bubble.

    Thank you for all of your posts.

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