Bicycles and appropriate infrastructure are critical tools in mobility management. As a result, we’d like to take the beginning of National Bike Month to highlight how important it is to consider incorporating bikes wherever possible into mobility management efforts. Improving ridership and access to cycling can reap immense benefits for communities of any size.
Biking is one of the most affordable ways for able-bodied people to commute, costing little more than the cost of the bike itself. In comparison, cars can become their own poverty traps by costing thousands of dollars per year. Working with employers to enable biking – such as creating financial incentives to do so or providing safe parking spaces – and with transportation planners to develop safe infrastructure opens this up as an option for traveling.
In addition, people who bike instead of drive, especially if they don’t have to own a car, can apply the money they save to other aspects of life. This is especially helpful to low-income individuals who may have to make difficult spending decisions between necessities by removing mobility as one of those financial burdens. Despite popular narratives, most cyclists are not wealthy hipsters, but working-class immigrants. If mobility managers work to enable biking in low-income areas and industries, it will actually go to the people who need its benefits the most.
In addition to making economic sense for personal finances, biking is good for the overall economy as well. Studies are beginning to show that people who walk and bike tend to spend more money over the long run at local establishments such as restaurants and convenience stores.
These benefits can affect rural communities as much as cities, too. Even where distance is a concern, the rise of electric pedal-assisted bicycles makes it easier for people to cover longer distances that are inherent to low-density areas, reach services that aren’t necessarily close to each other, or to connect with the transit services that reach into job centers.
Looking at the big picture, there are immense public health benefits to encouraging active transportation and prioritizing it for those who are able to utilize it. Biking offers a healthier alternative to driving, providing exercise that promotes better physical and mental health. Foregoing trips in cars also leads to improvements in air quality by preventing the release of pollutants that provoke respiratory illnesses and increase mortality.
Of course, bikes are not the panacea to mobility management, but making active transportation an omnipresent factor in a mobility network, it ensures the use of human-centered design to positively impact the community. Given the many benefits that bicycling can offer, we’d like to remind mobility managers to consider the many ways they can incorporate support for bikes into their efforts.
Image Credit: Andrew Carpenter