Even as we transition into new ways of living and working, bicycling has maintained its appeal: it’s an affordable, healthy way to get outside, enjoy our beautiful city and commute! And the data shows — the American Community Survey states that more than 12,000 people in Philadelphia already bike to get around at least three times per week, making Philly’s bicycle commuting rate higher than those of both Chicago and New York.
Each month, more and more people discover the benefits — and fun! — of riding to work. This September, join us as Philadelphia celebrates cleaner air, safer roads and healthier bodies with Love to Ride’s Cycle September. During this challenge, riders participate in the local competition where they can earn points as individuals or organizations for the number of rides they take and the number of people they can influence to try cycling. Even a 10-minute ride counts!
Here are four reasons why the simple act of bicycling can help create a better world and a healthier you. And for resources and even more reasons to ride, check out our Small Actions Spark Big Changes webpage.
1. Helps Clean the Air
Every pedal on your bicycle helps reduce harmful emissions. There are many human-made sources of emissions, and on-road motor vehicles, such as cars, are a huge driving factor in air pollution. Motor vehicle exhaust is one big source of ground-level ozone or smog, fine particulate matter, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. And according to the American Lung Association, toxic and hazardous air pollutants are suspected to cause cancer, birth defects and impaired lung function, as well as many other negative health effects.
Elevated risks from these air pollutants are often found in large urban areas, such as cities, where there are multiple emission sources and communities near large roadways or transportation facilities. You can help keep the air cleaner and our communities safer by choosing an alternative form of transportation.
And there are also the environmental impacts to consider too: emissions are a major contributing factor to carbon in the air that results in climate change, creating adverse weather events such as wildfires, drought and flooding. Because harmful emissions can make their way into the ground and water systems, these pollutants also contribute to ocean acidification, agricultural troubles and ecological destruction.
All of these effects can cause billions of dollars in damages to property and infrastructure, as well as leave many vulnerable communities at higher risks of economic challenges. Choosing to ride your bicycle to work is one simple, small way to decrease the output of emissions and help keep our air clean!
2. Saves Time and Money
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Livability Initiative, the average American household spends 19% of its income on transportation; and in auto-dependent areas, that percentage increases to 25%. Choosing to bicycle to work could significantly decrease your living costs.
Compact, connected communities like Philadelphia allow residents to spend less money on transportation because alternative options to driving exist, such as bicycling, walking or public transit. The city offers more than 300 miles of bike trails, including inner city bike lanes and a regional network of circuit trails. And because 40% of all trips in the United States are less than two miles, it makes sense to choose your bike this September to beat the traffic and save some bucks.
Don’t own a bicycle or nervous about investing in one? No worries, you can simply “rent” a bicycle for a single trip with Indego! Indego Bike Share is the only shared micro mobility service operating in Philadelphia. As of 2019, the Indego system has about 150 stations and 1,500 bikes available all over the city 365 days of the year. Indego reported that more than 740,000 bike share trips were taken in that year alone, and these numbers have only grown since then. Join the ride, and get to work faster and more cheaply, too!
3. Improves Your Health
There are so many health benefits to bicycling! Staying active throughout the day can be tough, but riding your bicycle to work gives your body that extra, simple boost to help keep you fit and engaged. It’s a low-impact option for those with joint issues, and for beginners it’s an easy way to get involved. Cycling helps reduce fatigue and increase metabolism, proving to be the perfect start to your day. Even regular short rides can help prevent several cardiac issues as well, such as stroke, heart attack and high blood pressure.
Exercise releases endorphins, which help lower stress and change your mood. Have a busy day of meetings ahead of you? Try bicycling to ease those worrying feelings, improve your mental well-being and decrease anxiety. Riding a bicycle gets you outside and focused on the road, providing a few moments in your day to be present and aware. If you decide to make bicycling a regular part of your commute, you may begin to feel better and more confident!
4. Gets You Outside
Most of us spend much of our time inside, either working, doing chores, sleeping or being sedentary; one government estimate believes the average American spends 90% of their time indoors. But there are great benefits to getting out into the open air.
Studies by the Centers for Disease Control show that time outdoors boosts our physical fitness, immune system, concentration and mental health, while reducing stress, fatigue, inflammation and mortality risk. Vitamin D levels increase after being outside, which has protective effects against depression. Our concentration improves as well after outdoor activity, providing the perfect reason to bike to work.
When the COVID-19 crisis shifted many people indoors and working from home, bike sales increased over 120% across the nation. And this number continues to grow. After being cooped up, kids and adults are learning to embrace the great outdoors more and more as a comfort in a time of crisis. Bicycling is one easy way to explore your surroundings and engage with the world around you.
By Brigette Brown, Editor & Content Coordinator