Most people know how to ride a bike. They learned when they were kids.
However, this doesn't mean that they actually ride their bikes often. Most people take their cars for even the shortest trips.
Just because people do it, though, doesn't mean it's the best idea.
Biking provides you with a variety of benefits that driving just can't.
You likely already know that it's great exercise and that it's better for the environment than driving a car. However, you probably don't know just the extent to which these things are true.
But here's the bottom line:
The truth is that there are plenty of reasons to not only ride a bike yourself but also to encourage everyone you know to bike more often.
After all, you won't ever forget how to ride a bike. You know that the expression "it's like riding a bike" is used to describe anything that you've learned and will never forget, right? What more do you need?
The original bicycle was invented by German Baron Karl von Drais in 1817. It was a "horseless carriage" with two wheels and no pedals - you would move it by pushing your feet against the ground. It was called the "draisine" and would eventually lead to the creation of what we now know as a bicycle.
Of course, it could be helpful to know some more about just how great biking can be for everyone!
How Biking Has Revolutionized Transportation
You may not know this, but biking has already started to take America by storm.
There were more than 100 million Americans who rode a bike in 2014. In fact, since 2003, there have been more bicycles sold than cars.
There are many cities where bikes are a significant percentage of the vehicles on the streets. In Davis, California, more than 20 percent of traffic on local streets is bikes!
Between 1990 and 2012, commuting via bike tripled in big cities such as Denver, Portland, Minneapolis, Washington DC, New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. It doubled in several other cities as well.
It's true that the United States doesn't bike as much as other countries.
In the Netherlands, 27 percent of all trips are made using bicycles. Canadians bike a lot more often than Americans as well. Bike lanes and other facilities are a big part of this.
However, it'll be no surprise if the United States catches up pretty soon.
For one thing, there's more diversity among bike riders than ever before. It used to be seen as an activity for a very specific group of hobbyists, and now everyone is riding bikes.
Also, more cities, such as Brooklyn, Indianapolis, and Austin, are implementing bike lanes.
Bikeshare systems in big cities are also working to promote bike riding in general. You don't even have to own a bike, you can just rent one by swiping your credit card or using your smartphone.
And the reasons go on and on.
Bike riding has become more mainstream, and this trend is likely to continue.
Top 10 Cities of Cyclists in the United States
Percentage of People Who Ride Bikes by City
How Riding a Bike Benefits the Environment
People have probably been telling you for ages that riding a bike is better for the environment.
What probably instantly springs to your mind when you hear this is fuel emissions.
Obviously, driving a car requires gas, and gas is emitted into the air from your car. And we all know that that is not good for the environment.
But what you probably didn't know is that there is much more to it than that.
Take a look:
Pretty much everyone knows that riding a bike is good for the environment. Because pretty much everyone knows that driving a car or truck adds unwanted emissions to the air.
But you likely don't know just how severe the problem is.
In the United States, people's trucks and cars account for a whopping 40 percent of the oil that is used nationwide. Even worse, these account for 10 percent of the oil used all over the world.
If everyone were to switch from driving to biking for trips that are reasonably short, it is estimated that between 2.4 and 5 billion gallons of gas would be saved.
There would also be somewhere between 21 and 45 million tons less of carbon dioxide released every year.
But that's not all:
Remember that cars need not only gasoline but also antifreeze and other fluids that are toxic to the environment.
By opting to ride a bike instead, you'll be preventing these nasty chemicals from permeating the environment, including not only the air but also land and water.
You probably weren't surprised at all to know that driving a car releases unwanted fumes into the environment.
But have you thought about the impact of parking alone?
If you have a considerable amount of experience driving a car, it's almost inevitable that you will have or will deal with difficulty finding a parking spot at one point.
Here's the deal:
This may be surprising, but 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from cars are caused by traffic congestion because people are looking for parking.
Since you can park a bike just about anywhere, these emissions are completely eliminated just by riding a bike.
How Riding a Bike Is More Sustainable for You
There are many ways that riding a bike can make life a lot easier on you.
If you are able to replace a lot of your driving with bike riding, you can save money in the obvious ways and in some not-so-obvious ways as well.
Also, in a big picture kind of way, more people riding bikes can actually make the roads safer for cyclists.
Well, duh. Gas costs money. You know that.
But you probably don't think of all the ways that your car costs you money when it doesn't need to do so.
Think about it:
When you consider the cost of a new car, along with gas, maintenance, and insurance, the average person spends nearly $8,500 per year.
Assuming you live a reasonable distance away from work, getting a bike and the required gear will cost you between $350 and $500 per year at most.
You may still own a car. After all, you can't really use a bike for long trips. No one expects you to ride your bike 200 miles in the winter, for example.
But if you own a car, and you drive it less, you can save quite a bit on auto insurance.
Most car insurance companies will give you reduced rates for less mileage. Some even have pay per mile auto insurance plans for people who drive less than 10,000 miles per year.
If you live in Chicago, New York, or any other urban area, you probably know what a nightmare it is to deal with parking.
If you commute by bike, you can park basically anywhere and circumvent this entire problem.
Avoiding car accidents
It should be mentioned that with all the benefits that come with riding a bike, immunity from car accidents is not one of them.
In the United States, there has actually been a rise in cycling deaths recently.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of fatalities among people who ride bikes increased by over 12 percent in 2015 alone.
Also, the rate is steadily climbing, and it is the highest it has been since 1995.
However, believe it or not, this actually presents an argument that more people should be riding bikes.
Because if more people are riding bikes, there will very likely be fewer fatalities.
In Denmark, for example, there was a 20 percent increase in the number of people riding bikes between 1999 and 2002.
During that same time, there was a 20 percent decrease in the number of accidents on the road.
Also, when more people are riding bikes, it is more likely that that particular city will add bike lanes to the streets. And bike lanes definitely make streets safer.
A Canadian study found that bike lanes can actually reduce the risk of injury to cyclists by a surprising 90 percent.
How To Ride a Bike: Bike Safety
In 2016, the United States saw 840 people on bikes killed in traffic accidents.
There are many benefits to biking.
You do need to keep in mind that following safety rules is very important.
After all, if someone on a bike crashes with a car, the person on the bike is the one who is likely to be hurt or worse.
Wearing the right equipment
There are many things that you should remember as far as what you should have when you are riding your bike.
Proper helmet use
You probably already know that you need to wear a helmet every time you're on your bike.
What may not have been emphasized as much, however, is the need to make sure that you are wearing the right helmet.
You should make sure that you wear a helmet that actually fits you. Sizes can differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, so make sure that you try on a few to find the perfect fit.
Make sure your bicycle is ready for riding
First, you need to adjust your bicycle to fit.
Stand over it.
If it's a mountain bike, there should be between 3 and 4 inches between you and the top bar. If it's a road bike, this distance should be 1 to 2 inches.
The handlebar and seat should be at the same level, and the seat should be at a level where there's a slight bend at your knee when your leg is fully extended.
Before you go out riding, make sure that your tires are properly inflated and your brakes are working properly.
Wearing the right clothes
It's also not just about the helmet.
You should also wear the right clothes when you are riding your bike.
During the day, you should wear bright clothing so that you will be visible to any cars going by.
At night, it's even more important to wear things that will make you visible.
You should wear reflective gear and make sure that you have the appropriate lights and reflectors on your bike. This usually includes a white front light and red rear light.
Other items and clothing considerations
If you have to take anything with you, make sure to carry these items in a backpack.
Alternatively, you can have them strapped to the back of the bike.
You just want to make sure that they don't end up distracting you or getting in the way physically and compromising your safety.
And on that topic:
You also want to make sure your shoelaces and pant legs don't get caught in your bike chain. So always tie your shoelaces, and if your pant legs are very long, tuck them in.
It's not enough to make sure that you have the right equipment when you are riding your bike.
You need to remember to engage in safe behaviors while riding too.
Planning your route
It's always a good idea to know what route you are going to take before getting on the road.
That way, you avoid potentially getting lost and having to focus more on finding your bearings than actually riding safely.
Also, it's good to find a route where you get to avoid traffic as much as possible. Even better if you can find a route that has bike lanes.
If you ever had to go to driving school, you've probably heard about defensive driving.
It applies to biking too.
You have no control over what other people do on the road. But what you can do is engage in the safest possible behaviors yourself and be vigilant about what is going on around you.
What you should do is drive in the same direction as the traffic on the road. Make sure that you obey any street signs, road markings, and signals, just like a person in a car would have to do.
Don't operate under the assumption that people behind the wheel are going to see you. They may not, especially at night.
Even if you are wearing all the right gear, they may not be paying attention. So you need to make sure to avoid collisions on your end.
Try to avoid riding on the sidewalk if you can.
This may seem counterintuitive, but you need to keep in mind that cars don't really expect to see any moving traffic on the sidewalk and won't necessarily look for you if they are backing out of a driveway.
If you must ride on the sidewalk, make sure that you keep an eye out both for cars and pedestrians.
Paying attention while biking
Make sure that you are on the lookout for any grates, potholes, pebbles, or anything else in the street that could cause you to fall down.
Don't text and bike.
Also, you shouldn't be listening to any music or have headphones in at all. You want to make sure that your eyes and ears are on the road and traffic at all times when you are riding a bike.
Also, make sure that you are competent at riding a bike. If you are struggling to ride on a basic level, this will make it much harder to keep yourself safe when you are biking to a destination.
Bike Laws in the United States
Even though there are certain laws that apply to biking all over the United States, you should keep in mind that the laws do vary slightly between jurisdictions.
Meaning that even though it is important to understand the national laws, you should definitely look into the laws in your area as well. You want to make sure that you have all your bases covered.
There are places where you are not allowed to ride a bike on the sidewalk.
But overall, what you should remember is that in every one of the 50 states, cyclists have to follow the same laws as other people on the road.
As is the case when you are driving a car, you need to bike on the right side of the roadway.
Considering the bikes are slower than cars, you should be the farthest to the right. The slowest vehicles are always supposed to be far to the right. If you need to pass anyone, do so on the left.
You need to yield to traffic when you are changing lanes and in situations where you are at an intersection and don't have the right of way.
Bikes are able to share the same lane with other drivers, but only if the lane is wide enough.
Make sure that you follow all street signs, markings, and signals at all times.
There are about 100 million bikes manufactured worldwide annually.
How To Ride A Bike: Tips for Getting Others to Ride Bikes
Now that you know how great riding a bike is both for you and for the world around you, what could be better than getting everyone to ride bikes?
Okay, so you don't have full control over other people's behavior. And there might be people who just refuse to ride a bike no matter what.
But there are effective strategies to get the people around you riding bikes.
If even one person rides a bike somewhere instead of taking a car, you'll have accomplished something in this vein.
Here's where to start:
First, you should remind them that they shouldn't be overly influenced by other people's experiences with bikes. It's really about them and what they get out of it.
If you can, help them pick out the right bike for them. This will make it more likely that they actually enjoy riding. Also, if they have some sort of fear of riding bikes, help them combat it. You can also teach people how to ride a bike if they don't already know.
One thing you can do is start your own group riding events. This could be a fun way for you to hang out with your friends and make some new friends in the process.
Maybe you can even start riding challenges or encourage participation in existing ones to spark the fire in some of those people's competitive spirits.
If you live in an area with a lot of busy streets or traffic, it could be helpful to bring friends and acquaintances out to safer and more secluded trails to enjoy biking.
Health Benefits of Riding a Bike
Of course, there are many health benefits that come with riding a bike.
You already know that.
But you probably don't know just how good riding a bike can be for you.
So let's take a closer look.
Physical health benefits
It's no secret that biking is great exercise. However, just as is the case with how good it is for the environment, people probably don't know just how good it is for them.
According to a study in the United Kingdom, cyclists tend to live an average of a whole two decades longer.
The Tour de France, a bicycle race established in 1903, is considered to be the most strenuous test of endurance in the athletic world.
There are many reasons why cycling is good for you.
It is low impact and works all of the major muscle groups. It is relatively easy, it is good for your stamina and strength, and you can vary the intensity as you want to.
There are many physical health benefits that come with regular cycling.
These include the following:
- Enhanced cardiovascular fitness
- Enhanced muscle flexibility and strength
- Stronger bones
- Lower body fat levels
- Better posture and coordination
- Better joint mobility
Cycling can lead to better health in many ways.
It is good for people who are struggling with obesity. It also leads to better cardiovascular health and lower risks for diabetes and bone injuries/osteoarthritis.
Mental health benefits
In addition to all of the benefits that you can see in people's health when they ride bikes, there are also many mental health benefits.
Curiously, exercise does not only make people happier, but it also seems to make them smarter as well.
Exercise has been linked to brain health in terms of cognitive abilities.
In 2013, a study showed that while people were riding bikes, their blood flow to the brain went up by 28 percent. In some areas, it was up by 70 percent.
Even after exercise was over, the blood flow remained elevated by 40 percent.
The effect of exercise on mood
Biking has been linked to lower stress levels. It is also associated with lower rates of anxiety and depression.
In fact, people who ride bikes have been found to have 21.6 percent fewer days of poor mental health than those who don't ride.
When you exercise in general, your body releases endorphins in your brain. These are basically feel-good chemicals that improve your mood.
It should come as no surprise, then, that people who ride bikes tend to have higher self-esteem as well.
The therapeutic effect of nature exposure
Some would say that it's good to not only ride a bike but also to make sure that you are surrounded by nature when you do it.
After all, going on a nature bike ride can be an exhilarating experience.
Not only do you have all of the endorphins coursing through you from exercise, but you are also able to take in tranquil and beautiful natural surroundings.
While riding a bike through the city can definitely be fun, riding a bike on a trail in the woods or in a beautiful forest with wildlife is a whole different experience.
Sometimes, the most therapeutic thing in the world can be to get away from it all and experience the peace that only nature can bring.
Now That You Know the Benefits of Biking...
You're probably really, really glad that you learned how to ride a bike all those years ago.
Or if you're one of those people who never learned how to ride a bike, you might be very interested in learning how to now.
It's never too late!
In 1935, the 25-year-old Fred A. Birchmore circled the globe by bicycle, through Europe, Asia, and the United States. He pedaled approximately 25,000 miles and wore out 7 sets of tires, traveling the rest of the circumference by boat.
Either way, you now know that biking is even more beneficial than you probably ever believed.
How can you not want to ride a bike after this?
It'll save you money, be great for the environment, make the streets safer, and be good for your health in so many different ways it's hard to count.
Not to mention how much fun you'll have getting back into nature and sharing great biking experiences with other biking enthusiasts.
Biking can be great both for your life as an individual and for society as a whole.
Of course, you may not feel like you have much control over a potential change to society, but remember that every person counts when it comes to making a change.
So by all means, take advantage of that knowledge of how to ride a bike! Use it to enrich your own life and do your part to make the world a better place!
Has biking improved your life? Share your experience in the comments!