As we close out 2020 (many will say “good riddance”) and approach another new year, many of us will think about New Year’s resolutions. For some of us, such resolutions involve getting in shape, and living a more healthy and active lifestyle. Bicycling is a great way to get in shape, while being kinder to your bank account and the environment, while getting rewarded for it! As we know, the first day of winter was just days ago, and January is typically the coldest day of the year, so bicycling may not be at the top of everyone’s priority list. After January passes, however, it won’t be very long until we get sporadic days in the 60s and 70s, until finally spring once again, well, springs. But even our southern Virginia winters are not typically known for being terribly brutal. In fact, last winter was comparatively mild, and this one hasn’t been too bad either (so far). Here at RIDE Solutions, one of the modes of travel we promote is bicycling, which is one of the most enjoyable ways to get or stay in shape, while social distancing.
Many of us are aware that bicycling is a great activity to engage in to improve and maintain our health. Chapter 2 of the West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan, adopted February 2018, presents numerous examples of how cycling is good for our health. The plan cites a University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center article, entitled “5 health benefits of cycling,” which articulates that bicycling helps us to lose weight. That may seem obvious to most of us, but as the article points out, excess weight can contribute to other health conditions including various cancers, specifically colorectal and breast malignancies. The bike plan cites another article in Bicycling magazine, entitled “8 Ways Cycling Will Make You Healthier,” which notes that, among other health benefits, an individual who commutes by bike rather than driving can add 14 months to their life span. An AARP article entitled “Bicycles Aren’t Just for Kids,” also referenced within this plan, notes an up to 40 percent decrease in certain conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues, and colon cancer. Lastly, with regard to mental and brain health, the bike plan cites another article, entitled “How Cycling Makes You Smarter and Happier,” which presents evidence that exercise (including cycling) can be as effective as psychotherapy or medication with regard to its effects on depression. This same article also notes that cycling promotes a better functioning brain. The West Piedmont Regional Bicycle Plan can be accessed at http://www.wppdc.org/documents-publications/transportation.
In addition to the many health benefits noted above, bicycling saves money and minimizes environmental impacts. Every mile we bike is one mile not driven, and this equates to less money spent on gas and wear-and-tear on your vehicle. RIDE Solutions operates a “commute calculator,” which estimates the amount of money you’ll save if you use a mode of travel other than a single-occupancy vehicle (driving alone). The commute calculator (see https://ridesolutions.agilemile.com/?calculator=true to access the commute calculator) shows that if a commuter or shopper travels five miles (one way) just two days a week, that would yield an annual savings of about $288. A distance of five miles is approximately equivalent from Collinsville to Patrick Henry Community College in Henry County; from Danville’s River District east to Airside Industrial Park, located just east of Danville Regional Airport; or from Franklin County’s Wirtz community south to the north end of the Town of Rocky Mount.
In addition to the benefits noted above, bicycling has virtually no environmental impact. Probably the most obvious environmental benefit is the fact that bicycles do not have tailpipes, and therefore, do not emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, resulting in cleaner air in our region. Additionally, since they do not emit pollutants, they also do not contribute to climate change, as they do not release carbon dioxide (CO2) into the air. With regard to environmental protection, you may be thinking that one person can’t make a difference. Every vehicle trip that does not take place positively impacts the environment. Furthermore, if numerous people change their habits, greater environmental outcomes could be realized.
You’ll get rewarded every time you take a work trip or non-work trip by bike! A non-work trip is a trip you would use your bicycle for that you would otherwise drive your car for, and they include trips to the store, the pharmacy, the doctor’s office, or for recreation or entertainment, etc.; RIDE Solutions cannot award points just for casual bike rides that do not include a start and end point, however. Simply download the free RIDE Solutions app, found at www.ridesolutions.org. When you do that, you’ll just be asked for your first and last name, a username, and a password. That’s it! The way the RIDE Solutions app works is that you accrue points toward rewards every time you log a trip you take with your bike. You’ll also get 1,000 free points just for joining! You’ll be able to redeem these points for coupons on food, shopping, or entertainment when you’re ready.
If you haven’t biked in quite a while and you’d like to get into it gradually, that’s great! You can start out going on short rides, and maybe you’ll only want to bike to work or another destination one day a week. That’s fine! Perhaps as you become more accustomed to bicycling, you’ll want to do it more and more, and you’ll find you can handle longer trips or even several trips each week. Whatever you decide, we at RIDE Solutions hope you have a happy and healthy New Year!