Bicycle Advocacy Improves Public Health

If you’re an avid reader of Vital, you probably know that we like bikes a lot around here. First and foremost, it’s fun to ride a bike. And also, it’s good for your health and the health of the planet. With this in mind, I interviewed Randy LoBasso and Ashley Vogel of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia about what it means to advocate for bikes and their riders. Here’s what I learned.

  1. It’s way more common to commute on a bike these days.
    Nonprofits advocating for bikes and their riders became popular in the 1970s and 80s as part of an environmental movement. A lot of people thought of riding a bike to work as a political act. That’s changed. As Randy LoBasso explains, “It’s not as much of a statement anymore. It’s a necessity. Riding a bike is cheaper. And if you’re within 4 miles of your destination, it’s often faster than driving in a city.” What’s more, a lot of young people who move to cities have a lot of student debt. Riding a bike to work helps them cut down on cost while they try to pay back the loans they took to get the job that they bike to!
  2. Drivers also like bike lanes, even if they don’t know it.
    Most cyclists have met a frustrated driver who feels nervous sharing the road with a cyclist. Drivers often slow down or have to wait to pass a cyclist. Think about it: drivers can actually drive more quickly, more comfortably, and more safely when bike lanes are available. In a city like Philadelphia, which has the most bicycle commuters of any large city in the US, bike lanes are especially important.
  3. Bike lanes are good for pedestrians, too!
    Drivers tend to slow down on roads with bike lanes. And, on busy roads where bike lanes are next to the curb (in between parked cars and the curb, for example), pedestrians actually have a shorter distance to walk across a busy street. It’s safer for everyone.
  4. Government policies can have a big impact on safety for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.
    Most cyclists will tell you, the more bike lanes the better. Having clearly delineated spaces for bikes and for cars makes everyone safer. In Philadelphia, however, a 2012 law requires an ordinance to add bike lanes if parking or a lane for cars must be removed. These kinds of policy decisions can make ensuring safety more difficult and can make advocating for transportation safety a more political process than intended.
  5. Cycling is becoming more common, not less.
    2.2% of commuters bike to work in Philadelphia. In a city of 1.6 million people, that’s a lot of bikes! As more people realize the economic, environmental, and health benefits of biking, this number will continue to grow. Bicycle Coalitions keep the growing number of cyclists safe and help cities navigate this increasing demand.
  6. Bicycle Coalitions are fun, too!
    It’s not just about advocacy. Being part of a Bicycle Coalition helps riders meet other people who share a similar interest. In Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition offers classes, events, tools, and tips. And, excitingly, they are gearing up for their Holiday Lights Ride!

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At Vital, we are dedicated to challenging narratives that impact the health of individuals and communities, which includes thinking of and advocating for healthier modes of transportation. Have a bicycle story to tell? Email us at contact@the-vital.com.

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