We have weekend warrior, Lycra-clad, ultra-light bicyclists speeding down our rural roads, but we don’t have commuters. They need to go together.
One of the biggest excuses I hear for not riding more for transport is that the cars go too fast on our two-lane roads. If it’s so terrible, why do people use the same roads for fun?
I stopped on my way home from running errands once to check the mail, and despite being outfitted for practical riding in a skirt, a few Lycra-wearers breezed by to make sure I was ok. I appreciated the sentiment and the camaraderie of cyclists checking up on each other, but it reinforced the cultural norm that a cyclist is only ever out for fun or exercise, not transportation. Why would I just be stopping and checking the mail? Nobody rides their bike home! If we need to go places, and we need our exercise, why not combine the two?
Nearly a quarter of adults in Vermont are obese (BMI over 30) and over half of adults in Vermont are overweight (BMI over 25). This is not an individual issue. This is not about finding the overweight people in your life to make them feel bad. This is about a systemic public health issue: we are too sedentary, whether we are fat or thin. We need to get up off our hind ends and move.
Biking to work or to run errands will only address one part of this issue, but could be significant. There is a place for exercise-as-function. It might not be lifting huge weights, or sprinting anywhere, but evidence shows that just moving around counts for a lot towards our overall health.
If, instead of hopping in the car, you walked or biked to the routine places that you need to go anyway, you keep yourself active more regularly instead of relying on a 30-minute long gym session. People in our rural area are so used to driving that they will drive up the block to pick up lunch, or drive less than a mile to a neighbor’s house to garden with a friend (the point there is that the physical activity nor being outdoors is the problem).
For a state that is so environmentally conscious, it is problematic that transportation in Vermont is not seeing a renaissance yet and that cars are taken so for granted. We’ll buy a Prius, but still drive somewhere that is less than a mile.
There is much evidence that increasing bicycling infrastructure has economic benefits for a city or region.
By decreasing our reliance on cars here in Vermont, we would be doing ourselves, our environment, and our economy a favor.