Bicycles (and tricycles) are a utilitarian’s dream come true. Capable of being used for recreation, transportation, and physical health, they represent a perfect multi-use marvel of human ingenuity.
The bicycle is, by a large margin, the most efficient means of transportation in terms of energy usage. According to World Watch Institute, the bicycle consumes only 35 calories mile per person, whereas an average automobile requires 1,860 calories. Bikes are not only efficient in terms of distance traveled per calorie, but also in terms of exercise efficiency (if one were in the business of burning calories and building muscle). You can burn more calories on a bike per hour than you can burn while walking, so when you consider your options for getting to the grocery store or visiting a friend living nearby—car, bicycle, walking—the bike is still the best choice when optimizing health, time, and the environment. Statistics regarding bicycle usage are highly telltale of its health benefits. In nations like Germany, Denmark, and Netherlands, bike usage is high (accounts for 12-18% of urban travel) while percent obesity remains low (10 – 13%). In the United States, the opposite is true: bike usage only accounts for 1% of urban travel and obesity is a staggering 30.6%.
Material consumption for bicycle and tricycle manufacturing is negligible compared to automobile manufacturing, and this difference is well reflected in purchasing cost as well as environmental impact. All you need to power your bike is a hearty meal or two and a bottle of water, not petroleum, biofuels, natural gas, hydrogen, or electricity. You don’t even need to vie for parking spaces! A several hundred dollar, as opposed to several thousand dollar, investment will pay off beautifully in a short period of time. Bicycle and tricycle maintenance and repair are low cost or easily done on your own. Recreationally, cycling is an activity that the whole family can partake in. From road bikes for the speed-hungry to tricycles for the comfort seeking, cycling can be suitable for all ages and interests.
So don that helmet, check those breaks, and hop on your two or three wheeled cruiser!
About the Author
Grace is an avid cyclist, vocal proponent of walkable/bikeable communities, a budding news junkie, and a native Angelino. A neurotic workaholic by nature, she has learned to expend her tremendous nervous energy through exercise and outdoor recreation. She has developed the strong belief that health and happiness come from quality time spent with family and friends, in self reflection, and in connection with nature (to paraphrase Bill McKibben).
In acting on this realization, she has explored numerous trails in the San Gabriel Mountains of Southern California with friends and family, has spent endless hours in the good company of alder trees and ants, and has ruminated under the stars in the high sierras. A recent graduate of University of Cambridge, UK, Grace has also rambled across dewy verdure hills, amongst sheep and grazing cattle, and often pondered the discrepancies between the European and American lifestyles. Through these experiences, she has come to love and appreciate, over and over again, the importance—for cultivation of our minds, bodies, and even, spirit—of exploring and respecting nature’s “outdoor laboratories.”