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Director’s Corner: The Earth-Friendly, People-Friendly, Two-Wheeled, Human-Powered People Mover

By September 1, 2015February 23rd, 2018No Comments

Photo of War Eagle BikeSometimes the awesomeness of common devices is taken for granted.  A bicycle is such a device, especially when viewed through the lens of sustainability.

A bike tour of all four points of the Sustainability Compass, Nature, Economy, Society, and individual Wellbeing, tells the story.

Biking and Nature:

It takes far less (polluting) energy to produce a bike than any other form of transportation.  In operation, bikes are the most energy-efficient forms of travel, three times more energy efficient than walking.  They use no fossil fuels so they do not contribute to climate change.  The only fuel required is food that nourishes the muscle-power of the cyclist.  Bikes are virtually non-polluting.  And by non-polluting I mean more than not dripping oil or emitting noxious gases.  Bikes are quiet.  No noise.

Biking and the Economy:

Many studies have been done that document cycling’s significant positive economic impact: A few years ago the Outdoor Foundation published a report showing the annual economic contribution of bicycling to the U.S. economy to be $133 billion, supporting over 1 million jobs, and generating close to $18 billion in federal and state tax revenue.  In 2012, The League of American Bicyclists produced a report entitled Bicycling Means Business, and the Adventure Cycling Association has gathered several other international and domestic reports that quantify the potent economic impact of biking.  Very impressive!

Biking and Society:

Bike-friendly cities like Minneapolis have a welcoming, people-friendly vibe.  Cyclists and pedestrians enhance a sense of community.  They are far more likely to interact socially, and by biking gain a more familiar and intimate knowledge of their communities.   Biking eases congestion and creates safer neighborhoods, since bikes are less dangerous than cars and travel at slower speeds.  The noise and air quality benefits biking provides to the environment also apply to quality of life in communities.  Bikes are relatively cheap and affordable to operate and therefore accessible forms of transportation for almost everyone.  Biking improves the mobility of many, including low-income groups, unemployed people, seniors, and those too young to drive.

Biking and personal Wellbeing:

The physical health benefits of biking are well established.  Cycling increases cardio-vascular endurance and energy levels, improves muscle tone and overall fitness.  Cycling is fun, and a bike ride can actually decrease your cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improve mental and emotional wellbeing.  A Portland survey showed that cyclists are the happiest commuters, followed in order by walkers, those who use express buses, then light rail, carpool, local buses and – at the bottom – people who drive alone.

Here in Auburn, conditions are improving for cyclists.  Auburn’s campus is more bike and pedestrian-friendly than ever.  Parking Services offers a Bicycling Basics handbook with rules of the road and biking etiquette, instructions for registering a bike on campus, area maps, and more.  In addition, Parking Services is about to introduce the War Eagle Bike-Share program, so bikes will be accessible all over campus.  Stay tuned for more details.  The Auburn Outdoors Bike Shop, located in the Recreation & Wellness Center, has a variety of bikes for rent, has resources on hand for bike repair, and organizes bike trips for groups.  For more rules of the road and tips for enjoyable, safe biking check out the Travel with Care Auburn website.

And for cyclists or would-be cyclists who enjoy citizen activism and policy development, a great way to get involved is to join the City of Auburn Bicycle Committee.  Meetings are held the last Tuesday of every month at 7:00 p.m. in the Auburn Public Library Conference Room, 749 E. Thach Ave.

Your involvement is important because our state has a long way to go to be acknowledged as a “Bicycle Friendly” state.  The League of American Bicyclists ranks all 50 states noting the number of bike-friendly communities, business, and universities in each state.  As you can see at the awards database, Alabama ranks dead last, with only one bike-friendly community (which happens to be the City of Auburn!), two officially designated bike-friendly businesses, and zero bike-friendly universities, although Auburn University has just submitted a detailed application to be recognized as the first bike-friendly university in the state.  We will find out in October if our application has been approved.

You can get involved with our application for Bicycle Friendly recognition by contributing your voice to the process.  The League of American Bicyclists has created a survey for students, faculty, staff, and others familiar with campus bicycling to gather user feedback to inform their decision-making process for our potential award.  The 11-question survey will remain open through Friday, September 18th.  We encourage you to participate and share the survey with others you know that utilize biking amenities on campus.

So, get out there and start biking!  Enjoy the benefits.  Have fun with others.  And join with other engaged citizens to make sure that planning and policy initiatives on campus and in our communities reflect the spectacular value of the amazing earth-friendly, people-friendly, two-wheeled, human-powered people mover.

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