Recently biking has been all over the news. And not because it’s Tour de France time. Partially because of rising gas prices, biking has become the thing to do, especially for young people. No longer an activity reserved for children, outdoor enthusiasts, left wing environmentalists, Europeans, and hipsters around the country, biking is becoming more mainstream. Because guess what? It’s cheaper than driving a car.
Case in point: I’ve owned my bicycle (which I use mainly for commuting) for about ten years and in that time it has cost me maybe 500 dollars in parts, repairs, locks, accessories, etc. But honestly, 500 dollars is a pretty high estimate and those expenses include repairs I made last fall after getting hit by a car (not normal wear and tear) and I never have to put gas in it or pay for insurance. Compared to owning a car for ten years, I’d say I’ve gotten a pretty good deal. My bike has served my commuting and recreational needs well and there’s honestly no indication that it won’t serve me well for another decade or more if properly maintained.
And it’s not only cheaper for the biker, it’s also cheaper for society: a study reports that one mile on a bike is $0.42 gain while one mile driving is a $0.20 loss. So really, biking is the patriotic thing to do.
However, while biking has become more commonplace, it’s still not as widespread as it could be and so I’m going to list a few things that can be done to encourage biking.
1. Build more bike lanes. In a recent article in the Washington Post, Ezra Klein made a very good case that while economists might not agree, this is an instance where supply creates demand. When bike lanes exist, bicyclers feel safer and more empowered to bike to work during rush hour and other busy traffic times. And according to a study published in the journal Transport Policy, this holds true even when variables such as weather, geography, gas prices, etc change. Also, apparently bike lanes make drivers less likely to be jerks.
2. Start a bike share program. Cities such as DC where I live already have an established biking sharing program and it’s done so well that cities such as Los Angeles are trying it out as well. Basically this allows people to enroll in the program and take out bikes from sharing station, ride them, and return them to another sharing station around the city. It’s perfect for when you’re making a one way trip and don’t want to have to ride your bike home or return for it the next day.
3. Invest in bike infrastructure. This includes: bike racks strategically located around town, bike parking in parking garages, secure facilities at train and bus stations for bikes to stay overnight, and bike rooms at work. When I had jury duty last summer I biked there and had no place to secure my bike other than to a tree and I definitely would have appreciated someplace more secure to store my bike.
4. Create a more bike friendly workplace. Have a Bike to Work Day and promote it to employees. Provide a shower and changing room for bike commuters to use (especially useful in the summer months). Have a secure place for bikes to be stored during the work day.
5. Get out there and bike. On your own, with your friends, to work, to play, in a critical mass, whatever. The more of us are on the roads the better the conditions are going to be because cars will have to make room for us. And policy will follow. In fact, several states such as my home state of Pennsylvania have passed laws that require drivers to give cyclists at least four feet of space at all times, regardless of traffic.
Photo credit: Bike Bus Only by MindFrieze