Biking for Health and Mother Earth

While Virginia talks the talk about bicycles as a transportation option — the Virginia Department of Transportation is holding hearings around the state to solicit public input about incorporating walking and biking trails into its transportation plans– two cities in Europe are walking the poverbial walk. In Amsterdam, 40 percent of commuters get to work by bike; in Copenhagen more than one third do. And both cities, according to today’s Wall Street Journal, are making significant investments to upgrade their bicycling infrastructure.

The Dutch and Danes have been bicycling enthusiasts for decades, touting the transportation mode as a form of exercise and an antidote for traffic congestion. The impetus now for increased investment comes from the conviction that substituting bicycle trips for car trips can reduce the carbon dioxide emissions believed to cause global warming. In Amsterdam, says the Journal, “the policy goal is to have bicycle trips replace many short car trips, which account for 6% of total emissions from cars.”

Denmark plans to increase spending on bike lanes on 2,000 kilometers (1,240 miles) of roadway. Amsterdam is undertaking a capital improvement program that includes construction of a 10,000-bike parking garage at the main train station. Norway hopes to raise bicycle traffic to at least of 8 percent of all travel by 2015, double its current level, while Sweden aims to jump from 12 percent to 16 percent by 2010.

The European commitment to bicycling has spurred innovation in bicycle design. There are cargo bikes and bikes with attachments for children. From what I can tell, however, no one has come up with a good all-weather bike. Some days, you’re just going to get wet.

In a world in which obesity is one of the greatest threats to public health, the surge in cycling does not represent a regression to a pre-industrial past, it represents a step forward to post-industrial well being. That’s justification enough for Virginia to invest more in bicycling, even if you’re not into the Global Climate Change thing.

There’s just one hurdle I can’t get over — the idea of arriving at work dripping with persipiration. I suspect a lot of other people feel the same way. Until employers start outfitting their offices with showers and lockers, for me, bicycling will never amount to more than a form of recreation or exercise. Emulating the Dutch and Danes in America will take more than new bicycle paths, it will take a major shift in cultural attitudes.

Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


9 responses to “Biking for Health and Mother Earth”

  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Exactly Jim

    My first Job and locationg I was close enough to Bike

    Jan-Feb too cold and dark
    March sometimes
    April good
    May starting too hot
    June-August too hot
    September pretty good
    October pretty good until daylight savings time
    Nov-Dec too cold and dark

    When you subtract out the days that it was raining I was only able to bike to work about 20% of the time


  2. I live a bout a mile and a half from my work and bike nearly every single day. You really don’t sweat so much on such a short ride.

    A couple of years ago I lived three miles up and down a hill from work. That is far enough to work up a good sweat. I’d bring a towel to work and towel off in the bathroom. No biggy.

    Really no car payment is better than being a little sweaty. I think.

  3. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    I lived close enough to bike for nine years but I seldom did so. the road was too dangerous and hilly for biking, and I needed my car at work frequently.

    I suspect Amsterdam and Copenhagen are quite a bit cooler than Washington in August. Also Amsterdam is only about four miles across and has around a million people. But if you consider the larger metropolitan area it is around 50 miles, and I imagine that looking at it as a whole you would find that there is relatively a lot less biking than in Amsterdam itself.

    That said, we could do a lot more to promote cycling. Recently I was watching some cyclists in downtown DC traffic, and I concluded that you would basically have to be suicidal to do it under the existing conditions. I’m afraid that, like Metro, cycling really only works with segregated transitways, which is both a blessing and a severe limitation.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    I was walking to my work, then they moved the office to the West End. They won’t put in showers or facilites for costs and insurance reasons.

    Its about an hour to bike. I could do it, but honestly I more worried about the scary car traffic than being sweaty or weather.

    $3 gas gives some incentive to risk it though. So does the spare tire around my tummy.

  5. Jim Wamsley Avatar
    Jim Wamsley

    The best cycling facility is a road with less then 4000 cars a day. Most city streets qualify. The worst is a street with a multiuse trail at the side.

    Commuting cyclists can avoid the walkers and driveways by using the street, but there are drivers that see the trail and try to sideswipe the cyclist onto it.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Our local transit in Fredericksburg (called FRED) has bike racks on most of the buses.

    It’s a great concept but on most of our local roads – especially at peak hr traffic, you have to be brave or stupid….to venture out on a bike.

    My wife and I have gone on vacation and taken our bikes .. and visited places out west which are said to be “bike friendly” like Moab, Utah, Durango and Salida, Colorado, .. and many of the National Parks… Canyonlands, Arches, etc. where the Park Rangers tend to keep the car-drivers a little more honest – and for some reason.. some of those in cars actually seem to be more patient with bike riders…

    anyhow.. I highly recommend taking vacations where you can bike ride… good for the soul…

  7. NoVA Scout Avatar
    NoVA Scout

    I live in northeastern Fairfax County, about 15 miles from the Capitol in Washington City. I read this post yesterday after having pedaled from my house to Ballston for a meeting with customers, and then on in to Washington to my DC office. Except for about a mile in Arlington, and a few blocks in DC, I could do the entire trip on trails or in designated bike lanes. The latter are a real boon. They only require some paint and some planning and keep bikes and cars well separated. I didn’t leave DC until about 7:00pm and had the option of riding to a Metro station and putting the bike on board for the trip back to Dunn Loring (about a mile from my house), or, alternatively, to gut out the entire trip back to Ole Virginny. It was a beautiful day, I didn’t have anything pressing, so I went the entire distance and got home just about the time where darkness would have made it a bad idea to be riding.

    A little paint and planning can do a great deal to encourage bike riders. It strikes me that the money would be minimal compared to the benefits.

  8. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse

    Good story NoVa Scout. One might even say “Good Scout.”

    A little paint and planning will help a lot for those inclided to do better for and by them selves.

    Amsterdam and Kobenhaven are flat as pancakes. Sweat is a function of speed, distance and incline. Incline, even is a small urban enclaves like Greater Warrenton, is a problem except for recreational biking where there is an onging effort to make an alternative to an Autonomobile trip an option for every trip.


  9. Ray Hyde Avatar
    Ray Hyde

    “…there are drivers that see the trail and try to sideswipe the cyclist onto it.”

    That is the least of the problem. I have seen yahoos leaning out of their pickup truck because they think swatting a (female) cyslist fanny is good sport.

Leave a Reply