Noticing a few extra cyclists on the road this week in the GTHA? It’s no coincidence—this Mon., May 27 was the annual Bike to Work Day, kicking off Bike Month 2019 and a flurry of events in Guelph, Durham, York, Brampton, Caledon, Burlington, Oakville, Mississauga, Hamilton and T.O. But no matter where you live, now’s the perfect time to pump up those tires, slap on that helmet, and leave the car, congestion, and pollution behind.
Bike Month 2019: May 27 – June 30
Bike Month 2019 helps people discover (or re-discover) the joy of biking. Coordinated by Cycle Toronto, and with Regional Partners MEC and Smart Commute, this annual period organizes a chock-a-block calendar of bike-centric events. Here you’ll find group rides, film screenings, festivals, breakfasts, free swag and prize draws, and suggestions for excellent bike routes in a variety of regions in Southern Ontario. Users can click through on their locale to learn about local events and stations or check out the full Bike Month calendar to see everything that’s going down.
For example, on Monday here in Toronto, commuters met to ride as a team, converging at Yonge and Charles for the 30th Annual Bike to Work Day Group Commute and Pancake Breakfast. City start points were staffed with ride coordinators and a police escort at Nathan Phillips Square powered by Live Green Toronto. Riders enjoyed a complimentary breakfast at City Hall and could purchase Bike Month 2019 Commemorative t-shirts.
Here’s a shot of Scout Environmental bikers from 2018 ride!
Now, all this hubbub over bikes isn’t just for the pure fun of it. There’s a reason why bikes are worth celebrating. Several reasons, actually—and they’re worth sharing and sharing again.
Good for the Environment
To understand why bikes are good for the planet, you’ve first got to understand why fuel-burning cars aren’t.
If you head to the website Union of Concerned Scientists: Science for a Healthy Planet and Safer World, you’ll learn that:
“Collectively, cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all US emissions, emitting around 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other global-warming gases for every gallon of gas. About five pounds comes from the extraction, production, and delivery of the fuel, while the great bulk of heat-trapping emissions—more than 19 pounds per gallon—comes right out of a car’s tailpipe.
In total, the US transportation sector—which includes cars, trucks, planes, trains, ships, and freight—produces nearly thirty percent of all US global warming emissions, more than almost any other sector.”
According to National Geographic, “vehicles are America’s biggest air quality compromisers, producing about one-third of all U.S. air pollution.” Sciencing writes that the “carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases” released by cars and trucks “contribute one-fifth of the United States’ total global warming pollution.”
Of course, measuring the impact cycling has on the planet is tricky. Different sources will offer up different methods of measurement. But nearly all reputable, evidence-based, science-backed sources (i.e., not quacks, not funded by the oil industry or military, etc.) will all tell you the same thing: that fuel-burning vehicles are a major source of greenhouse gases (climate-change-causing emissions), are extremely resource intensive to produce and sustain, and produce toxic chemicals that poison our air and cause awful health effects.
Don’t believe us? Read about air pollution with the World Health Organization, which describes how toxic emissions and particulates in our air are shortening human lives everywhere.
With these troublesome facts in mind, it seems sensible to introduce alternative forms of transportation—like the humble bicycle, which requires zero fuel, emits zero emissions, and is produced at a fraction of the cost of a car or truck.
Sometimes numbers can help us visualize the difference that switching to a bike can make.
The Queensland Department of Transport claims that “Cycling 10 km each way to work would save 1,500 kg of greenhouse gas emissions each year.” The Adventure Cycling Association claims that bicycling could save “6 to 14 million tonnes of CO2” and “700 million to 1.6 billion gallons of fuel” every year. According to Max Glaskin, author of Cycling Science, “For a given journey, the energy consumed by a driver is at least 42 times more than by a cyclist, a bus passenger uses 34 times as much, and a train passenger 27 times as much.”
If you’re serious about the environment (or about environmental health), then you’re likely pumped about bikes. But even if you can’t replace your car for work, you can support pro-bicycle policies at the municipal level and support politicians and organizations that are serious about cleaning up the transportation sector.
Good for Our Cities
It’s ironic to note that the automobile, the great accelerator and connector of the modern age, is now so superabundant and ubiquitous that it slows a city down—or even grinds it to a halt. The GTHA was simply not made for everyone to own a personal vehicle (or SUV) and to drive it every day at the same time. What we get are traffic crises, exhaustive commute times, exorbitant gas bills, more need for repairs and upkeep, and crumbling roads that lead to intensive and expensive construction projects, which in turn slow everything down even more.
We also get an increasing number of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities, all caused by stressed, frantic drivers trying to eke out a space in a corridor of stop-and-start gridlock. Or roads designed for cars only, with cyclists and pedestrians taking to the streets at their own peril.
The city of 2019 is crying out for better transportation infrastructure.
As this Guardian article explains, more investment into bike lanes, and even a modest number of people swapping their car for a bike, can have powerful benefits. As it explains:
- better bike lanes and cycling infrastructure in a city—and more people making the smart choice to have a clean commute—will mean fewer cycling deaths.
- having bike lanes along commercial areas of town can increase retail sales by as much as 17%.
- parking for bicycles requires 8-times less space than parking for cars.
- bicycle traffic saves a third of road traffic, meaning far less congestion; and
- a more active, bike-bound populace will save us health care costs and mobilize the poorest families in our society.
Good for Your Body
Biking to work provides regular cardiovascular exercise. We probably don’t have to tell you this, but the physical benefits are vast. Biking fights against obesity and related problems caused by excess weight. It reduces your risk of stroke, high blood pressure, heart disease, and heart attack. It helps prevent various types of cancer and diabetes. And it increases your balance and strength, which means fewer fractures and bone injuries from falls.
Physical exercise can be daunting, or even dangerous, for some of us. Bicycling, however, makes things as straightforward and custom-built as you want it to be.
On a bike, you move at your own pace. Need to slow down, catch your breath or reduce your heartrate? It’s up to you: you’re in control of how fast you’re moving, where you’re going, and when you stop. But it can also be the most intense workout you’ve ever had—it’s your call.
Like swimming, cycling is a low-impact form of exercise. Churning your legs on a set of pedals means no heavy impact from the road, less strain on your joints and ligaments, and less muscle damage and inflammation or the chance to re-trigger some pre-existing injury. If weight-bearing exercise isn’t for you—as it isn’t with people with osteoarthritis or bad knees—cycling is ideal.
So, join Bike Month 2019 for your posture, flexibility, strength, weight, cardiovascular and respiratory health—the list goes on. Or simply do it for the extra portion at breakfast, lunch, or dinner that now you won’t feel so guilty about enjoying.
Good for Your Mind
Just as a daily exercise regimen can build your body’s strength, endurance, and flexibility, cycling can help improve brain function and combat other neurological issues—from depression and loss of memory to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Your brain benefits from all those nutrients and oxygen it gets during a healthy bike ride—so feed it!
Cycling is a clean and efficient way to elevate your mood, too: it can help melt away the anxieties of a busy week, help boost your self-esteem, and help regulate various hormones connected to stress, including adrenaline and cortisol. When we exercise, our brains get a shot of BDNF (Brain-Derived Neutrophic Factor), which repairs memory neurons. They also flood with endorphins, which help soothe the pain and discomfort of stress (say, like the pain of pedaling uphill) and make us feel downright amazing.
(And yes, these feelings are addictive. Please note that taking up a daily cycling route might mean you’re tempted to increase your levels of daily exercise from 20 to 30 to 60 minutes and beyond—so don’t say we didn’t warn you).
Few people feel joy when standing shoulder-to-shoulder with commuters in a stalled subway car or inching along in a massive traffic jam. But your bicycle route to work, school, or wherever might take you through fields and parks, ravines and pretty neighbourhoods. Cycling gets you outdoors, surrounded by fresh air and sunlight, trees and flowers, and moving at a more humane pace. It might just be the mental health practice you need.
Read more about it at:
— Post by Scout’s Marketing Manager, Spencer Gordon