Bicycling is increasing, reshaping our economy and infrastructure while helping the environment

An increasing number of Americans are choosing to ride bicycles to get around instead of driving a car, which is not only transforming our infrastructure and boosting parts of the economy, but also improving overall health and helping the environment.

With so many cars on the road today spewing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, more and more people are turning to bicycles as a cleaner healthier alternative.

According to the League of American Bicycles, the “number of trips made by bicycle in the U.S. more than doubled from 1.7 billion in 2001 to 4 billion in 2009.”

And in communities that are bicycle friendly, the rate of commuting by bike surged 105 percent from 2001 to 2013.

In fact, the increase has been so great that it’s having a positive impact on the economy and is forcing the development of new infrastructure to support bicyclists.

Mother Earth News reports:

More than simply a piece of recreational equipment, the bicycle is increasingly viewed as a viable mode of transportation for work trips and non-work trips alike. With the increase of cyclists on the road it is becoming clearer that they are having an economic impact in regards to the consumer choices and even location choices for businesses catering to the bicycling passersby or for their own bike-oriented employees.

The site uses the city of Portland as a prime example of these changes, citing BikePortland writer Michael Andersen after explaining that bicyclists are breathing new life in several businesses in the face of a world where people are increasingly shopping online.

“Bikes, it turns out, seem to be a perfect way to get people to the few retail categories that are thriving in the age of mail-order everything: bars, restaurants and personal services,” Andersen wrote. “And in Portland, where an early investment in basic bikeways has made bikes a popular way to run errands, retailers are responding by snapping up storefronts with good bike exposure. It’s not just that a potential customer on a bike is just as valuable as the same potential customer in a car. It’s that good bike access is disproportionately good for the core customers of bars and restaurants.”

It’s likely that bicyclists are able to look around and pay attention to what businesses are around them, unlike drivers who fly by and have to pay more attention to what’s in front of them. This draws more notice to these brick and mortar establishments, and bikers will visit again and again on their daily ride.

So, parts of the economy are directly benefiting, and that means the infrastructure has to change to accommodate the change, including changes to parking and roads.

Communities are swapping car parking for bicycle parking and biking lanes are being added to roadways to make things easier on riders to get around, giving them even more access to area businesses.

“Bars and restaurants have capitalized on this new infrastructure, which provides a buffer from moving traffic, by adding outdoor seating for sidewalk cafes. Because demand is so high, the city must place future corrals strategically and may institute a fee for installation,” Alison Lee says.

It’s also good for people’s health as riders can get their daily exercise on the daily commute, resulting in less health problems, thus increasing worker productivity.

That’s why companies are getting on board with bicycling as well.

And most importantly, bicycling reduce the amount of pollution from combustion vehicles. The more people start riding bikes, the better. That’s not to say bicycling is for everyone. If you have to commute 50 miles to work every day, it’s probably best to use a car. But people who live and work in cites should have no problem unless weather forces you to seek refuge in a vehicle. Beyond that, riding a bike would benefit the environment and cut your carbon footprint.

And that’s especially important right now as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than ever.

Overall, bicycles offer a lot of benefits that we cannot ignore. We can help local businesses, improve infrastructure, get healthier and save the environment one bike at a time. It’s as easy as…well, you know.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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