Anything Better Than Cycling For Health?

Background Reading



From my perspective the sign of a healthy community (regardless of income) is that the residents ‘walk‘ its streets each evening. Bicycling gets all the press because for some reason this male dominated activity is currently the darling of cities that want to attract young white workers from the other cities to come and help them increase their tax base.

But to do cycling the way the Dutch have is going to require billions of dollars. If you can accept that the 606 Trail is without washrooms and other amenities and yet costs $100M to build then you are a much better person than I. Even those who self-identify as members of the Urban Cycling Movement dislike the trail because of its congestion. They dislike the Chicago Lakefront Trail for the same reason.

The fact is that people are far more likely to walk/hike in beautiful places than they are to bicycle. In fact using a bike to get around the city where the shops you frequent are about a block or two away really makes very little sense. Why?

Bicycling is a bit like driving when you get around to thinking about it, in a serious fashion. Both activities require a machine to make them happen. So ‘right off the bat‘ you have to be mechanically inclined to work on these devices to keep them in good repair. And failing your own expertise in that area it means visiting the repair shop where you spend inordinate amounts of money to do things that you have to do to keep going.

Then take for instance the fact that bikes like cars require parking. Parking is not just expensive in terms of the monies required to feed meter (for autos) but it is doubly expensive in that it takes some land set aside for the purpose. Land that would otherwise be available to people and not these infernal machines. And do not mistake the fact that cars take up more space to park than do bicycles. Nope!

Organic Transit Elf Model

Organic Transit Elf Model

Depending on the type of bicycle you could easily park a single bicycle in the same space as a car. The Organic Cycles Elf is big enough to match a Smart Car in size. But to park most ordinary bicycles you need to have lots of locking devices. Why?

Well bicycles like cars cannot be legally parked ‘anyplace‘ at all. You need either a parking structure (garage) or a parking stand on the sidewalk for bikes. And that parking stand is likely to be quite a ways from your destination. So eventually you have to walk.

Brompton Folding Bikes

If you are going to be a city dweller who insists on using a bicycle for short trips then a Brompton makes a heck of a lot more sense than just about anything else. Where you are going into a grocery store, or a shop to purchase records or clothes you can take the Brompton inside with you.

So at the very least the folding bikes is a lot more like walking/hiking than it is driving. After all if you are gloating over the density of your neighborhood, then the last thing you need to do is have to bike somewhere when walking is safer and does not require an infernal machine. And it certainly does not require that you lock up your shoes outside the establishment you are visiting.

Walking Beats Biking – Hands Down

Besides long after you have decided to stop biking on a two wheeler, you will probably still have use of your two feet. But even before then, walking is far safer, more congenial and is better exercise than riding a bike.

And think about this. All over the country there are parks and forest preserves. They are designed primarily to accommodate people on foot. A great pair of hiking boots and some thick wool socks and you can go for hours. And unlike a bicycle (which you often have to schlep on the back of a vehicle) you are the only additional ‘thing‘ needed.

You can hike or walk in your own neighborhood. Walking about the block probably brings the same level of weight-bearing exercise as a mile of bicycling. You do not have to stop and get all the family bikes down from the rafters of the garage and inflate tires.

Nope! You just slap on your favorite shoes (or even flip-flops) and head out. And that means that the family pet can accompany the group.

Bicycles are fine, but like most things they are ‘sized‘. Aside from a Brompton Folding Bicycle most bikes have to be discarded when your child reaches a certain age. Bromptons on the other hand are capable of accommodating you from about the age of 10 for the rest of your life. A good pair of shoes will accommodate an adult for the remainder of their lives if kept in good shape.

But above all else a good walk or hike involves conversation. You can hike or walk in areas where cars cannot go. The current design of bicycle infrastructure is insistent on using a lane of the automobile tarmac. So you have to keep track of cars and trucks and even pedestrians to enjoy the bicycling. But that gets tiresome and frustrating. In fact most cyclists who commute complain bitterly about their interactions with others (whether they be cars, pedestrians or even other bicyclists).

You probably need to ride at least 20 miles on a weekend to get some enjoyment. You can get good and tired and fully recharged in as few as 5 miles of wooded hiking. And you don’t have to keep schlepping a machine around with you all the time.