Exploring the benefits of cycling

Did you know that June is Bike Month? Now that the weather has (finally) warmed up, what better way to get around town than by bike? Not only is biking beneficial to your health, it’s also good for the planet AND your wallet. This blog post will explore just a few of the many health, environmental, and economic benefits of biking.  

Health benefits

Three students posing with photobooth props at Bike Lunch 2018According to the Canadian Physical Activities Guidelines, adults aged 18-64 should get at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise per week in periods of 10 minutes or more. That’s about 20 minutes each day, or 30 minutes five days a week. This is easily attainable through a leisurely bike ride at lunch or in the evening, or by riding to and from work. For myself, I can easily achieve this if I ride my bike from my home in Uptown to campus each day!

There are many health benefits associated with getting regular amounts of exercise. For one, you are supporting a strong cardiovascular system, reducing your long-term risk of high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, and other diseases. Regular exercise is also linked to a reduced risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and even some forms of cancer.

Also very important are the mental health and wellness benefits of exercise: regular activity helps reduce anxiety by releasing endorphins, relieving stress, reducing muscle tension, and more. I know that whenever I feel anxious, stressed or upset, a walk, run or bike ride instantly improves my mood! Lastly, fewer cars on the road means less tailpipe emissions, contributing to better local air quality. Our health is directly impacted by our environment (the places we live, work, and play) so a healthy environment = a healthy you!

Environmental benefits

Getting out of your car and onto your bike is a great way to contribute to better local air quality. This is important for mitigating the greenhouse gas effect, which directly contributes to climate change and the urban heat island effect (urban areas like cities tend to be hotter than rural areas because of large expanses of dark, light-absorbing infrastructure). Cars can also spill toxins into the environment like oil and other liquids, which can contaminate local waterways and their inhabitants. Bikes don’t create any of these pollutants!

Bikes parked near trees by EV1 and MLFurthermore, the fewer cars on the road, the less noise and light pollution there is. Noise pollution is not only harmful to humans, but to wildlife too because it can cause them to become disoriented or frightened. Light pollution can momentarily blind wildlife, impairing their navigation abilities, and can even impact reproductive cycles of organisms like fireflies! Wildlife mortality rates can also be reduced by fewer road collisions.  

Finally, by reducing the demand for cars, the demand for more roads and parking lots also declines, and opens up more opportunities for cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. This also allows us to preserve precious greenspace, which provides ecosystem services like air and water filtration, natural cooling, food and more.

Economic benefits

Bikes locked up on bike standsInvesting in a bike is probably one of the most affordable and efficient ways to travel. A good-quality bike can be purchased for under $300 and can last you for years, compared to a new (or used) car that costs thousands. I still use the bike I bought from ToysRUs for $150 when I was 10 years old! Bikes don’t require fuel, a run through the car wash, oil changes, or other costly services. As long as you have a pump and a set of wrenches, you can take care of most maintenance yourself. If you aren’t familiar with how to repair your bike, there are plenty of free resources that can teach you how to do so (or can do it for you). If you are in a situation where you only need a bike for a short time – say while living in residence or just the summer months – you can rent a bike on a weekly or monthly basis through local rental companies and the UW Bike Rental program through the Bike Centre.

Another important economic benefit of biking is that you don’t have to pay parking at commercial buildings, saving you sometimes as much as $25 dollars per parking occasion! Biking is also faster than walking and on some occasions driving (if traffic is slow, like on Columbia Street), making it one of the speediest yet affordable ways to get around the city. 

Time to start biking!

There are plenty of reasons to make biking your go-to mode of transportation, with benefits for your health, the planet, and your wallet. If you are worried about the safety of riding a biking in your neighbourhood, or you are not familiar with the rules of the road for cyclists, don’t worry – the Sustainability Office will be sharing helpful resources throughout the month to show you how to be a safe cyclist!

That is all for this post. Now if you will excuse me, it’s time for a bike ride!

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