by Carolyn F Fisher, PhD, Research and Evaluation Project Manager
This week is the Bay State Bike Week, and ICH is participating in the MassCommute Bicycle Challenge on a team together with Cambridge Health Alliance.
Biking taps in to the mission and values of ICH in multiple ways. Exercise we get from biking is an important component of promoting health. Biking, and robust pedestrian and bike infrastructure, promotes social justice and the environmental health of our communities. And bicycling promotes community development, providing economic and social benefits to local communities. We at ICH are proud to be living our values!
Martina Todaro says she arrives at work in a better mood when she bikes
We’re lucky to be located in the Greater Boston area, where there is a significant amount of bicycle infrastructure, including dedicated bike lanes, and some off-road bike trails. Perhaps most importantly, too, there are lots of other bicyclists on the roads. There is safety in numbers – drivers, seeing one bicyclist, will be more attuned to looking for others, and in general, drivers are not surprised to see bikes on the road.
Exercise and individual health
Cycling to work has the major advantage of building exercise into the start and end of our days. This way, even when our schedules are packed, we are guaranteed to fit in some exercise. And exercise is extremely important to health, as ICH RA Abby Tapper writes. Some even argue that biking, specifically, is good for mental health and for promoting happiness.
Jeff Desmarais says “Even if biking to work didn’t make me healthier and shave 15 minutes off my commute, I would still do it. In the morning it helps me get ready for my day and in the evening it helps me unwind.”
Environmental Health and Social Justice
Further, the environmental benefits of biking are important to the communities in which we live. When we bike, we both avoid putting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, with broad implications for climate change, and also avoid putting ingredients of smog into the air in our local communities. While climate change affects all of us, smog and its negative health impacts such as asthma particularly and disproportionately affect our urban communities which tend to be poorer and lived in by more people of color.
The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center points out that prioritizing bike-ability and walk-ability in planning has important social justice implications. They write:
“If automobile travel is the only feasible mode of transportation in a community, low-income families are placed at a large disadvantage with very limited mobility. By providing safe and convenient pedestrian and bicycle facilities, the community can ensure that all citizens have access to a viable mode of transportation.”
Community benefits: Bicycling is good for the economic health of our communities: building bike infrastructure promotes job creation, and bicycle-related businesses such as bike stores and repair shops are a source of revenue for our communities. There is also evidence that people who bike are more likely to patronize local businesses they pass than people in cars.
In addition to the economic, health and environmental benefits for our communities, there are less tangible benefits for our communities. Noise will decrease, because bikes are quieter than cars, and the “livability” of the communities will increase. Biking also promotes social interaction more than traveling in cars does.
Links to biking resources
Boston Bikes is a City of Boston initiative that promotes cycling in the city, and has links to numerous programs including (among many other things) How-Tos for beginning bicyclists, special programs for women bicyclists, and information about Hubway, the Greater Boston bike sharing program (which has $5 annual membership available for low-income residents).
Bike lane and trail maps Google Maps isn’t always the best source for biking map information. Try this map instead!
Hubway is a bike share system in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline. You can bike without having to own a bike!
Safety tips and information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the CDC.