Paul Andersen: Fair Game
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
When this column appears, I will be doing what I love best – bike touring. I’ve taken 10 days to pedal through the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, following a branch of the old California Trail, then arcing west into California. More details on this upon my return.
The point is not to taunt the homebound and workbound, but to sing the praises of a mode of travel that few attempt, but almost all who do love forever. Bike touring is one of the best ways of seeing the world because it allows travel without barriers at a slow enough speed for full sensory intake.
Our course in California includes a rails-to-trails route with tunnels and bridges, following the Susan River. Such trails are touring meccas because they meander through awesome country on a mellow grade, all without car traffic.
Car traffic can be dangerous and inhibiting, which is why it’s important for cyclists to support a national movement founded in Boulder called “Bikes Belong.” The organization, formed in 1999, is on a mission to create a groundswell of grassroots support for a nationwide network of safe, attractive bike routes.
Bikes Belong aims to “ensure funding for new bicycle facilities that would increase bike riding, boost public health and happiness, and strengthen the bike business.” To do so, they hope to garner a million members as the basis of a strong lobbying effort.
The Bikes Belong agenda is getting traction because of several strong arguments for expanding bike routes. One is that the number of kids riding bikes to school has, in just one generation, dropped from 50 percent to 15 percent, while childhood obesity has tripled. Getting kids on bikes and riding to school can boost the health of the nation.
Using bikes as commuter vehicles is another clincher argument that can save time and money. Car commuters, on average, spend 36 hours a year stuck in traffic, costing the U.S. more than $87 billion in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Bikes can offset some traffic congestion, provide necessary “cycletherapy” for commuters, and offset dependence on foreign oil.
If global warming is on your radar, that’s a great motivator for cycling. On a round-trip commute of 10 miles, bicyclists save roughly $10 daily and spare the air 10 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. Such a commute burns 360 calories and reduces mortality up to 40 percent, giving you a longer, healthier, globally conscious life.
Bikes Belong was founded with support of the bicycle industry, a $6 billion per year slice of the U.S. economy. Bike manufacturers have an obvious interest in furthering facilities in bike-friendly cities and in enticing more Americans to buy bikes. Bikes Belong supports this public/private partnership because it has good results for all.
The organization has already lobbied for $4.5 billion in federal money for new bike paths, trails, designated lanes, and programs, nationwide. Since 1999, the Bikes Belong Grants Program has awarded $1.6 million in grants, leveraging close to $550 million in federal, state and private funding. Bikes Belong has helped finance more than 1,630 miles of bike paths and trails that link almost 7,500 miles of trails.
Bikes Belong launched People For Bikes on April 15, which involved more than 150 bike industry leaders, including the CEOs of Cannondale, Fuji, Giant, Raleigh, Schwinn, Shimano, SRAM, Specialized, and Trek. Mountain bike legends Gary Fisher and Dave Wiens both pledged their support, and Lance Armstrong has asked his 2 million Twitter followers to sign the People For Bikes pledge.
“While millions of Americans ride bicycles and recognize the economic, social and physical benefits of riding,” said a spokesman for Bikes Belong, “only a fraction have stood up to help improve bicycling in America.” Here is an opportunity to put bike advocacy into the big chain ring and move bikes into the forefront of national transportation policies, where Bikes Belong.
To become one of the motivated million dedicated cyclists, go to peopleforbikes.org. And the next time you meet a local government representative in our valley, thank them for being ahead of the curve in making the Roaring Fork Valley a leader in bike-friendly communities.