Over the years, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure has become an enemy of the conservative. With fears such as “they’ll slow down traffic”, or “why should I pay for it if I don’t use it?”, we have instead poured taxpayer money into repairing and building new highways and parking facilities. Environmental protection is seen as invasive and costly, and business owners worry that removing car facilities could hurt their ability to attract customers.
Let me start by acknowledging these notions. If you too feel these fears or worries, you are valid in these thoughts. I am simply here to offer a new perspective.
Bicyclists and pedestrians are good for the economy. Think about a street you visit to shop, dine on, or even photograph. Chances are, while there is some car traffic, it is the vibrant life on the sidewalks and those visiting its businesses that make the street so compelling. Urban environments contribute to 3/4 of America’s economy; tourists flock to cities such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco to feel the sense of freedom that comes when the entire city is your playground.
When we make bicycling or walking a viable option, many of those who cannot afford to drive are finally able to make a living. For some, this can be crucial to preventing homelessness. If you are between making a car payment which drives you to work each day or paying rent on a home, which would you choose?
Bicycling and walking leads to lower strains on the healthcare industry and insurance companies. Encouraging walking and bicycling leads to lower rates of obesity as well as heart attacks, diabetes, and other health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles. Instead of purchasing a standing desk, maybe consider bicycling or walking to work a few days a week. Although it may feel safer to drive, the rate of deaths from car crashes paired with heart disease and obesity show that you actually might live a longer, happier life if you spend more time outside of a car.
The point of this piece is not to lecture or even change anyone’s mind- I realize that in some places it truly is impossible to enjoy a bike ride (such as Arizona is the 100+ degree summers). I simply wanted to share some interesting facts that were recently shared with me, and possibly offer a new perspective on how alternative transit can truly benefit people of all backgrounds and beliefs.