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So much may begin with a bike ride. The wind on your cheeks, the sun on your back, and soon, a smile on your face. Your legs spin, your blood flows, and next thing you know, your cares are left behind.

The personal benefits of bicycling are old news: better cardiovascular fitness; boosted muscle strength and flexibility; stronger bones; improved joint mobility; decreased body fat; lower stress levels; and reduced anxiety and depression.

New research suggests that for a whole community, the benefits of biking are even more far-reaching. In technical talk, it’s called “bikeability” — how suitable a place is for biking. If more people climb on their bikes, the personal health benefits add up to a huge plus for public health.

There’s less traffic, for instance, which makes for better air quality. And this can contribute to lower healthcare costs for all, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted in a case study on preventing chronic disease.

That’s just the start to the econo­mic benefits, the advocacy group Blue Zones notes in a 2022 report. More bike lanes and paths, more bicycle parking, and more cycling infrastructure are wise investments in a town’s, city’s, or neighborhood’s economic health.

“The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms,” says Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner. “Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.”

So, how can you make your life — and your community — more bikeable? We’ve gathered some ideas.

1) Make It Easy

The simpler you make it to just jump on your bike and go, the more apt you are to do it. Create space to park your cycle, remembering that it gets dirty and that it needs to be lockable so your ride doesn’t get stolen. And consider a nearby storage spot for your related gear — helmet, shoes, tire pump, and whatever else you need.

Keep an eye out for fun places to ride, such as bike paths and trails, or a specific destination — a coffee shop, a café, a glorious view, or a cool playground for the kids. You can research rides at bike shops, which often have local maps and advice to share, or via online chat groups.

2) Dress for Success

Keep the gear you need at hand: a comfortable helmet that you’ll want to wear, high-vis clothing, bike lights, and a lock. Consider adding a rack to your bike for toting groceries — or a seat for hauling kids. And be prepared to make repairs: You can learn to fix flats or tune up your ride in group classes at bike shops, from books, or on YouTube.

3) Shift It Up a Gear

The more you shape your daily life and surroundings in bike-friendly ways, the easier it becomes to ride more — a truly virtuous cycle. You might consider an e-bike for grocery runs, transporting children to school, or commuting to work.

In the last few years, and coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic, e-bikes have boomed in usability and reliability, with a wide range of options for racks, multiple-person seating, and weather protection. Try other modes of biking, such as road racing, mountain biking, gravel riding, or long-distance touring. And if you live in a land of snow or sand, you might learn to love a fat-tire bike.

4) Find Your People

Studies show that one of the best ways to inspire yourself to get out and exercise is to have a fitness buddy. Whether it’s for serious workouts or just to get you biking more often, keep a lookout for like-minded cyclists. Bike shops are good places to find group rides of various levels.

Or join a local or national club, such as Black Girls Do Bike, The Black Foxes, or International Cycling Club. And seek out a cycling mentor, someone who knows bikes and can provide advice on buying or maintaining your two-wheeled friend.

5) Consider Commuting

A fine way to make sure you ride regularly — and wash away the stress of work at the end of the day — is to commute via bike, if it’s possible. Less than 1 percent of Americans use bicycles for active transportation, according to the Alliance for Biking and Walking. But the fact that Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis, two cities with major-league inclement weather, consistently top the lists for the most bicycle commuters year after year proves it can be done.

Research safe routes. Secure a suitable parking space at both ends of your trip. And last but hardly least, plan ahead on how to freshen up and carry or store work clothes.

6) Advocate for Bikeability

Your bike ride is just the start. You can help your community ­become more bikeable by working with organizations that advocate to add bike lanes to roads, create bike paths, install bike racks at businesses, and promote bicycling in other ways.

Volunteer for a biking audit, aiding your city in counting the number of riders to assess bikeability. Help your kids’ school become more bikeable by lobbying for bicycle parking, searching out safe routes, and creating a “bike train” of kids for safe riding. And if you’re commuting, recommend that your workplace add a bicycle room for parking and changing clothes — ideally with a shower area (even if you don’t have a shower at your workplace, you can still ride your bike to work. Here are some tips on freshening up).

As bicycling advocate Elly Blue writes in Bikenomics, “The bicycle may not be able to save either the economy or the world that we have now. But it is one means by which we may be able to get through whatever comes next with grace and meaning. And it provides us with the opportunity to build ourselves lives, communities, and an economy that we can truly afford for the long run.”

This article originally appeared as “Get More Bike in Your Life” in the July/August 2024 issue of Experience Life.

Michael
Michael Dregni

Michael Dregni is an Experience Life deputy editor.

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