Bicyclists ride in the annual bicycle "conference on wheels" in Minneapolis.
There are few things I love more than getting on my bike and pedaling to the office or taking a ride around the city. It's a great way to stay in shape and avoid the hassles of driving--be they high gas prices or getting stuck in traffic--and it’s also a key to reducing our dependence on climate-disrupting dirty oil.
So I'm excited that May is National Bike Month. This means we can educate more Americans about the fun of bicycling and the importance of creating more bike-friendly communities. Biking is a key part of a 21st century transportation system that fights climate change by eliminating the use of dirty oil, and building bike-friendly communities is important for allowing more people to safely get on their bikes.
I'm not alone, of course. Millions of Americans use their bikes to run errands, get to the office, or stay in shape. And more Americans are choosing bikes over cars every day. With at least 40% of trips being within two miles of home, the bike is the perfect way to get around.
Illinois resident and Sierra Club activist Cynthia Hoyle is an avid bicyclist and a certified League of American Bicyclists instructor on safe biking. It's rubbed off on her children, too.
"Neither of my children (ages 23 and 19) own a car and neither want a car," Cynthia says. "They learned to ride their bikes safely at an early age and it is their major form of transportation. My mom offered to buy my daughter a car when she was graduating from high school and my daughter told her she did not want a car. She asked for a new bike instead."
Cynthia says this is a testament to living in a community where kids can get around on their own. "Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, is transforming itself into a truly multimodal community. The community recognized that our built environment is a best and biggest asset, and we need to build our community so that it offers quality of life and affordability in lifestyle to all residents regardless of income or physical limitations. Offering residents the ability to reduce car ownership provides families with more income to use toward housing, education, food, and recreation."
She adds that making her community bike-friendly didn't take a huge financial investment for the city and makes life much safer for everyone.
New York City bike and walking lanes.
"Most the bike infrastructure in our community is a result of restriping the road when it was resurfaced - no widening was needed. Road diets - converting unnecessary vehicle lanes to bike lanes - work very well. In fact, the installation of bike lanes as part of a road diet has been shown to reduce crashes of all kinds, not just car-bike crashes, but car-car crashes and car-pedestrian crashes. Slowing traffic improves safety for all roadway users."
In South Texas, Mark Peña is working for safer streets as well. "Ciclistas Urbanos is an urban cycling group my wife and I formed in 2010 as part of our and others' efforts to advocate for more bike lanes and other cycling amenities in our community of Edinburg," said Mark, who also helps to lead the Sierra Club's Lower Rio Grande Valley Group.
"Since then, Edinburg has added new bike lanes and in 2011 became the first city in the Rio Grande Valley and the seventh city in the state to adopt a Safe-Passing Ordinance requiring motorist to maintain a safe distance of at least 3’ for cars and 6’ for trucks and other commercial vehicles when passing cyclists. Other area cities are currently considering adopting a similar ordinance."
Mark mentioned that since the local buses added bike racks, there’s been a growing interest in biking. He and his wife continue to work with the regional transportation authority to map bike routes and hold biking and walking festivals. During National Bike Month, they’re holding a community bike ride every Saturday morning.
"Ensuring the availability of transportation alternatives is a key part of transforming our cities to become more livable and environmentally sustainable," Mark says.
"Our country and our cities can no longer afford to build transportation networks solely dedicated to automobiles. We must maximize the economic efficiency and usefulness of existing roadways to accommodate multiple modes of travel and invest in new, more efficient and sustainable alternative modes of transportation. Transportation is the lifeblood of our economy, and it must be healthy, rich and diverse to move our country forward into the 21st century."
Everyone deserves access to clean, affordable transportation choices like biking - but many communities don't have the infrastructure they need to safely replace car trips with biking. With your help, we can do better.