There are many short trips to make in your immediate neighborhood—to the store, the public library, the swimming pool, your place of worship, and the post office, just to name a few.
Do you grab your car keys or your bike helmet? If your default action is to drive your car to these local destinations, here are a few things to consider.
Cycling benefits your physical health. Cardiovascular exercise helps manage your weight, controls or prevents high blood pressure, and lowers cholesterol. It also prevents type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and certain types of cancer.
Cycling supports your emotional well-being. Exercise is a great natural mood stabilizer. Many people suffer from depression and anxiety in our fast-paced, stressful culture. Cycling provides an emotional lift, and calms raw nerves.
Cycling improves your energy and efficiency. Exercise boosts your energy levels, and stimulates the brain to function more efficiently. Sure, biking to the post office could take a half hour longer than driving. But if your work requires you to be mentally sharp, you will more than make the time back in increased productivity.
Putting your bike out on the road helps to make Columbus streets safer for all cyclists. As recently reported in The Columbus Dispatch, bicycle fatalities have not increased in Columbus or nationally for several years, in spite of the fact that the number of cyclists has been steadily growing. This means that the per-capita safety of cyclists is increasing. The Columbus Alternative Transportation Examiner attributes this to increased driver awareness: more bicycles on the road means that motorists are more aware of them, and the result is fewer bicycle/car collisions.
Riding your bike encourages other people to ride. In our car-centered culture, seeing a person who is old enough to drive using a bicycle to get around seems, well, a little weird to the average person. Humans are social creatures, and we can’t help being influenced by what we see other people doing around us. It takes a little chutzpah to stand out from the crowd. But the more people are seen riding bicycles in your neighborhood, the less weird it will seem. Riding your bike makes it a little easier for other people to defy social conventions and do it themselves.
Cycling saves money and supports a greener environment. These are both no-brainers. But if you care about issues like pollution and global warming, cycling is an easy and practical way to make environmentalism a true priority in your everyday life. And you will also keep more dollars in your pocket.
The next time you have someplace to go, reach for your bike helmet. If you start making this a habit, cycling will soon become the means of transportation you use automatically. Driving will become the exception instead of the rule. You and everyone around you will benefit.