Cycling for health is a natural fit:
• Cycling helps muscles and joints. Cycling improves muscle function with little risk or strain. It strengthens leg muscles and is
great for the mobility of hip and knee joints.
• Cycling improves cardiovascular fitness. Cycling makes the heart
pound in a steady manner. Cycling uses the largest muscle
groups, the legs, raising heart rate to benefit stamina and fitness.
• Cycling makes for healthy hearts. According to the British Medical Association, cycling for only a couple of hours per week can
reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent.
• Cycling helps coordination. Cycling is an activity that involves
the whole body. It improves arm-to-leg, feet-to-hands and body-to-eye coordination.
• Cycling cures the blues. One need not be a long distance rider to
know that cycling can reduce stress and help relieve symptoms
of depression. Cycling clears the mind of stimulus overload. It
rejuvenates the soul.
A national leadership network has blossomed in recent years to
advance the bicycling for health agenda. It includes AARP, the
Robert Woods Johnson Foundation, the American Heart Association, and Safe Routes to Schools, a federal program funded
since 2005 at about $100 million annually. Last January, U.S.
Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx issued
his “Mayors’ Challenge”, a checklist of pro-active bicycle friendly
goals, many with health ramifications. Foxx is well known in bike
circles, having been a staunch advocate as a city councilperson
and later as mayor of Charlotte, N.C.
What this all means is that success for bicycle riding in the 21st
century must be redefined in more diverse and inclusive terms
than ever. The goal now is healthy, safe, fun and convenient
mobility for all Americans regardless of age, income level or socioeconomic background.
The League of American Bicyclists (LAB), via a competitive Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) program, ranks cities and towns
in five broad categories: Education, Encouragement, Engineering, Evaluation and Enforcement. LAB’s award levels — Bronze,
Silver, Gold, Platinum, and a new level, Diamond — provide a
clear incentive for communities to continuously improve. Sixty-nine million people now live in a bicycle friendly community
ranging in size from Crested Butte, Colo.,(pop. 1,497 / Gold)
to New York City (pop. 8,337,000 / Silver).
The LAB makes awards every year to new applicants and every
four years for renewals. Last June it announced 42 new and
renewing awardees. They join 350 other communities in all
Sixty-nine million people
now live in a bicycle
Photo by Seattle DOT
Photo by Gabriel Amadeus