Making the Public-Health Case for Bicycles

Last month Bacon’s Rebellion hosted an “idea jam” on the topic of bicycles and public health. Our goal was to build a case for making the Richmond region more bicycle-friendly in terms that fiscally conservative political, business and civic leaders would find compelling. We decided to focus on two topics: public health and economic development.

The resulting white paper, unforgettably entitled, “The Return on Bicycle Investment: Public Health,” focuses on… cycling’s public health benefits. We make several points. First, credible studies have demonstrated that regular exercise on bicycles reduces obesity and the incidence of diabetes and heart disease. Second, the fitness gains outweigh the perceived risk of accident and injury on bicycles, which diminish in any case the bicycling culture takes hold. Third, biking is one way that inner city residents can break out of their “food deserts” and access sources of healthy fresh food. And fourth, the cost of building a usable bicycle network need not be expensive if we maintain a long-term commitment.

Kudos to Champe Burnley, president of the Virginia Bicycle Federation, and Tom Bowden, chairman of Bike Virginia, for helping organize the event, as well as to the dozen intrepid souls who contributed an evening of their lives to the cause. Also, many thanks to Acorn Sign Graphics for hosting the discussion.

The document is short and sweet. Read it and pass it along to anyone in a position of authority or influence.

– JAB