According to the League of American Bicyclists, over 50 percent of people in the United States lives within five miles of their workplace. This makes for an opportunity to significantly reduce the number of cars on American roadways, in addition to a number of other benefits.
“Seattle is just one of the metropolitan cities that could significantly benefit from more people commuting on bikes instead of in vehicles,” says attorney Chris Davis of Davis Law Group in Seattle. “With all the people and cars in the area, more cyclists could significantly reduce both traffic congestion and the frequency of vehicle accidents.”
Due to the increased caloric burn and cardiovascular exercise, there is no arguing that the benefits of choosing a bicycle over a car are paramount on a personal level. But the benefits to the community and society as a whole should not be overlooked, either.
For instance, it takes the same amount of space to store 20 bicycles as it does to store one car. It is also estimated that a person will lose approximately 13 pounds in their first year of regularly biking to work, and that up to 1,100 lives and $3.5 billion in increased air quality could be saved each year if people ran half of their errands by bike for four months out of the year.
Though the pros of cycling are advantageous, there are also potential downsides to two-wheeling to work every day – especially in a crowded city. The tight-knit setting of Seattle can be tough for drivers and cyclists to collaborate in, and unfortunately leads to accidents, injuries and even fatalities.
“Although there are many benefits of riding a bike to work every day, the dangers of bicycling are very real, especially in a metropolitan setting,” Davis adds. “We see a lot of bicycle accident cases involving collisions with vehicles, and they can result in very serious injuries or even death. Because cyclists are not protected in the way that drivers of a vehicle are, the risk of a serious injury increases significantly.”
Metropolitan cities throughout the country are focusing their efforts to increase ridership, ultimately working towards the goal of less-congested city streets and a reduced carbon footprint. But the risks involved with cycling still have some feeling safer inside a vehicle.
Although there has been a 25 percent reduction in annual bicycle fatalities since 1995, there are still over 51,000 reported bicycle injuries every year. On top of that, it is estimated that only ten percent of all bicycle accidents resulting in injury are documented by police.
In Seattle, bicycling is steadily growing in popularity and the League of American Bicyclists ranks the city seventh in the nation in terms of estimated number of total bicycle commuters. The busy environment and dense population, however, hampers its potential as an efficient biking environment and is nationally ranked at number 47 in terms of bike lane and pathway mileage compared to the size of the population.
The League of American Bicyclists, in addition to many other organizations like it, offers a list of potential action steps for enthusiasts who want to increase awareness and build ridership numbers. The steps range from promoting “Bike to School” day to setting up energizer stations – small kiosks with water and snacks – for those participating in “Bike to Work” day.
Visit www.bikeleague.org or your local bicycling club website for more information on how you can become actively involved in National Bike Month.