Bicycling, whether you ride or not, benefits you. Bicyclists make your commute safer, easier, healthier, and cheaper.
Safer: Cities with high rates of cycling see fewer traffic injuries and fatalities, and in some cases cut these risks in half (PDF).
Easier: When bicycle infrastructure exists, traffic flows more smoothly. For drivers, that means less time spent in traffic, and less money spent on gas.
Healthier: Every person who bikes to work saves a half gallon of gas, and prevents 10 pounds of carbon dioxide from being added to the air every day. That can add up to almost two tons of CO2 and 200 gallons of gas – per person, per year.
Cheaper: Finally, bicycling is good for the economy. The return on investment for cycling infrastructure is in some cases 12 to 1. Missouri’s Katy Trail brings total economic effects of more than $18 million every year. The city of Seville, Spain, decided bicycling was valuable and important enough to spend $43 million on a world-class network. And one of the more dramatic examples – Iowa gives bicycling credit for $1 million per day (PDF).
If you’re starting to think favorably about bicycling, it’s time to get involved.
Bikeshare: an inexpensive way to start
Next to walking – bicycling is just about the cheapest way to travel. But buying, storing, and maintaining a good bike can add up over the course of a year. So the absolute cheapest way to commute by bike is by using bikeshare. In Topeka in the spring of 2015, you’ll be able to get a year-long membership to Topeka Metro Bikes for $25. That will let you check out a bike for two hours, every day for a year, for free. You could ride 6,000 miles in that time! What’s more – you’ll never have to fix a flat tire, lug a bike up to your balcony, or hang it on your car. When you’re done with a ride, just lock the bike up at a good bike rack, and forget about it. (Shameless plug)
Bike-friendly tips for retail & small business
Good news for business owners – bicyclists spend more money than motorists. A recent study (PDF) found that cyclists may not spend as much per visit as motorists, but they make more visits to retail businesses than motorists, and are likely to spend more in a month. That’s all the more reason to make minimal effort to accommodate bicyclists.
What are some ways to do that? The first one is really, really simple. Put a picture of a bike on the front of your store. Just a smaller sticker by the door will do. This is totally serious – but it also carries a commitment with it: You have to promise not to grimace when cyclists waddle in, carrying helmets, and wearing skin-tight lycra. You don’t have to talk about bikes, or physical activity at all – a simple comment on the weather will do just fine.
Next, consider installing a bike rack near your front door for visitors – or somewhere secure and tucked away for employees. You have car-parking, don’t you? And sidewalks? Don’t forget about bikes! But please, if you’re thinking about getting a bike rack – don’t just go out and buy the first one you find. The kinds of racks that support wheels, but not bike frames, can actually damage bicycles, and they’re not very secure. The Topeka Community Cycle Project has you covered – they can help you get a great bike rack, in almost any color.
How to get involved in Topeka
Sign up for a bikeshare membership! Topeka is launching the state’s first bikeshare system, and it’s only a pilot phase. If it’s not successful, it may not last. (Shameless plug)
If you’re a business owner, get a bike rack! (See above).
Consider participating in WorkWell Shawnee County, Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods, Safe Streets, or any other coalition or group working on behalf of residents. These groups are all making it easier for people to live healthy lifestyles.
Employers – offer the bike commuter tax benefit to your employees who ride often. Healthy employees are happier, take fewer sick days, and are more productive.
Set up a placed-based promotion with the local bikeshare system – encourage bikeshare users to visit you.
Read Bikenomics by Elly Blue. This is the be-all, end-all compendium of practical bicycling economics. Her series at Grist makes a nice introduction.
Visit the Topeka Community Cycle Project to meet bike commuters, and learn to work on your own bike, or visit Capp’s Bike Shop or Jerry’s Bike Shop to meet expert mechanics and pick up useful gear – or a new bike!
Show up for Bike Month events in May 2015 – starting with Dinner & Bikes!
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