The Bicycle Advantage – It’s not about the Bike

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We have an exciting opportunity to build great cities and towns in our region by making bicycling safe, convenient and fun. This is not about thinking bikes are cool and its not about weekend exercise and recreation in our beautiful parks and open spaces. Though those things are good too. Making bicycling safe, convenient and fun for everyday transportation brings tremendous advantages – it allows families to be healthy and save money on transportation, makes more vibrant and connected communities, and supports our local businesses by helping them attract customers, retain talented staff and attract tourists.

Bicycling it turns out, is good for all of us whether we bicycle or not, because it’s good for local business and the strength of our community.

A Thriving Regional Economy

In the modern competition between cities for talent and business, our region’s superior advantage could be lifestyle and active living. Today young professionals and CEOs are drawn to live and raise a family where they can lead an active lifestyle and appreciate the outdoors. They want to be able to do so in their daily lives, not just on the weekends.

I moved my start-up business there in the first place, for lifestyle reasons“, said Peter Barth, the keynote speaker at last month’s Shasta Economic Development Corporation event. That was the initial attraction. And then he and other CEOs and community leaders built an amazing start-up incubator and developed new firms and built jobs that have re-vitalized the city of Greenville and the local region.

In Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time longtime urban planner Jeff Speck writes: “The conventional wisdom used to be that creating a strong economy came first, and that increased population and a higher quality of life would follow. The converse now seems more likely: creating a higher quality of life is the first step to attracting new residents andjobs.” Interestingly, the Association for Convention Management finds these ideas compelling.

Healthy Local Business

Safe and inviting sidewalks and bikeways bring people right past the doors of retail businesses. Thus the previously well-recognized power of foot traffic is again appreciated by businesses that have found themselves on fast-moving street corridors where people say, “I had no idea that business was there”. Mounting evidence from cities that install protected bikeways to serve business districts shows retail sales increasing, sometimes dramatically. “There is a strong connection between biking local and shopping local. That’s why many merchants incentivize residents to bike to their districts to shop and dine,“ says April Economides, Business Consultant.

In addition, trail-based tourism can be a major economic driver. Our local visitor’s bureau has figured this out, you may have noticed the billboards on I-5 that entice people to Redding now prominently feature a bicycle. The Sacramento River Trail was recently chosen one of the Top 10 Trails in California and was featured in a national magazine. If we can build safe and inviting connections from our trails to downtown and other business districts there are tremendous opportunities for entrepreneurial businesses to develop around visitors who arrive throughout the year. Bicycling in the United States is a $6 billion national industry and one study estimates that the spillover effects of recreational bicycling alone could be as large as $133 billion.

Stronger Families

When we create safe space for biking in our neighborhoods we allow families to save money, spend less time driving, and improve the health, confidence and school performance of children and teens. Car ownership costs are the second largest household expense for families, with the average household spending almost as much on their cars as they do on food and health care combined. Americans using bicycles save billions, so says Forbes.

We can learn from others and implement quickly.

Shasta County’s obesity level and number of premature deaths and negative health outcomes are above both the state and national average and have been growing, with 34% of students in Shasta County overweight and obese. (See Robert Wood Johnson Foundation studies: 2010, 2013.)

We can learn from others and implement quickly.

We can make a big difference in the ability for our kids to be active everyday if we make it safe for children to walk and bicycle to school. The Safe Routes to School Partnership reportsthat just 13% of children ages 5 to 14 walk and bicycle to and from school, with 43% making the trip in a car even though it’s less than a mile to get to school.

A growing body of evidence suggests children who are more active are not only healthier but also do better academically.

Lower Civic Costs

Bicycling facilities on the roadway are relatively easy to implement and low cost. For example, the estimated replacement cost of the entire interconnected bikeway network in Portland is equal to the cost of one mile of four-lane urban freeway.

Bicycle commuting helps lower civic costs by reducing the number of cars during commute times, thus reducing the need for costly road and intersection projectsdirected to reduce traffic congestion during peak travel which occurs only a couple of hours per day. Also, the addition of protected bike lanes has been shown to improve safety and overall road functionality: all traffic crashes decreased by 34%, commercial loading hours increased by 475%, speeding decreased, and traffic flow remained similar.

Better Living and More Joy

People are made to move. The less we sit still the happier we are. While a treadmill desk is not for everyone, adding a bicycle trip to our daily routine makes us trimmer, boosts our mood and helps us feel more energized.

Parents say they would like to cycle more with their children – if safe routes were available.

One of the great things about bicycling for everyday errands is that it doesn’t have to feel like exercise and you still receive the benefits. 40% of trips are two miles or less, and a person on a bicycle going an easy speed can travel that distance in 15 minutes.

Parents say they would like to cycle more with their children – if safe routes were available.

Some people say, “I bike to eat,” burning more calories means they can eat more cake. My friend Nancy says, “I bike because I’m lazy. The trip is more fun and easier by bicycle.”

People love walking and biking on the river trail and say they want to do the same with their families for daily errands but they don’t feel safe on neighborhood streets. Imagine what it could be like if we had bikeways and greenways connecting our neighborhoods, schools, business districts, and parks.

Building Our Superior Advantage – Lifestyle and Active Living

One of our greatest public assets is the interconnected network of streets and public places that binds our homes, schools, businesses and parks. We have an opportunity to create space on these roads to make bicycling and walking safe and convenient for all people, ages 8-80. This will add value to adjacent land, neighborhoods and business districts.

When we couple superior facilities for active transportation with our existing world-class recreational attractions – we will ensure our region excels as a destination for families, businesses, tourists, and dare I say – conventioneers.

By working together to make this happen we can generate real collective impact with benefits across our communities. Let’s get started!

Photo credit: Thank you to Mary Lascelles, The Green Lane Project, and Jeff Worthington.

About Shasta Living Streets: Shasta Living Streets inspires community members and leaders in order to create more livable communities within our region for an economically viable and vital place to live, work and play. Living Streets allow people ages 8-80 to lead an active lifestyle and bicycle and walk for everyday transportation, health, and joy.

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11 Responses

  1. Avatar kirsten says:

    Maybe, I'm not the right person to comment. After all, I came out of the womb on a bicycle…and wearing clogs. Yes; I am Danish and as such have spent a considerable time riding my bike, and kinda blame this for my luck in good health.

    I have biked in Paris, Delft and Beijing as well as Redding, where I frequently use the sidewalks for safety. Now: can anyone explain why the "upgrade" on Hilltop did not include a bikepath?? There is not a better place for shopping in Redding than all the smaller stores on just that stretch. What were they thinking? And who is the "they"?

    • Avatar `AJacoby says:

      Kirsten, your response brings to my mind the site of the R.R. station in both Copenhagen and Malmo (a bedroom city across the straights in Sweden). THOUSANDS, literally THOUSANDS of bikes lined up all across the overpass and in front of the station. None of them chained, BTW. I was told that many people commute from Malmo by train and leave a bike at either end for completing their commute. When they get to their destination, they just grab the nearest bike and go. Of course, none of the bikes were the high-end designer bikes that cost thousands, but the basic, serviceable bike seemed to work for most people. You also pose some very good questions at the end of your note!!

  2. James Montgomery James Montgomery says:

    The pinnacle of existence is to be a 10-year-old boy on a bike. When I ride, that's what I feel like. Yep, running errands can be fun, even tho Redding is only moderately particularly bike-friendly.

    That said, there are times and reasons not to use the bike.

    1. There are places in town that even a chained bike is liable to be stolen. Is there a security system for tracking stolen bikes, like computer chips or something?

    2. Weather- when it's 110 or pouring rain, biking is no fun. Not much to do about that.

    Keep on bikin'.

    • Avatar Anne says:

      Good question – there are many new technologies to improve the entire experience of biking. Here's a cool new one for keeping your bicycle safe. Check it out.: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-cricket-you

      True – 110 is not ideal any activity. We are very lucky to have cool mornings and evenings even on the hottest days. Street trees along routes would be very helpful for improving the value of homes and businesses and also for improving the experience of walking and bicycling when it's hot. That's an issue we can do something about.

  3. Avatar Sara S says:

    I've found riding my bike can actually be a time savor when used for transportation because I don't have to find extra time to exercise. Riding to work and riding my kids to daycare is great fun and a good way to start and end our day. My routes aren't perfect safety wise, but we are able to use some trails. We are hoping and advocating for sidewalks and a separated path along Bueanaventura to make our route safer and more pleasant (BV is supposed to be redone next summer…consider talking to City of Redding Public Works to implement trees and separated sidewalks from the roadway. Bike lanes are in the plan…but bike lanes for kids aren't always the safest). Thanks for the article, Anne!

  4. Avatar 2r says:

    <3 it i do.. 🙂

  5. Avatar Stephanie says:

    The weather here is not a small factor. I love to bike and walk, but not in the heat. At six o'clock on a summer morning there are not many businesses open. At six o'clock on a summer evening is the hottest time of the day. There are about four months of the year when it is very pleasant here. That leaves the other eight months. Comparing the north Central Valley to other parts of the country where they have expanded their transportation options is the old apples/oranges conundrum.

  6. Avatar cheyenne says:

    I did not realize how little bike trails there are in Redding area until I moved to the Midwest. In Nebraska, where favorable weather might be six months, towns large like Lincoln or small like York had bike trails running throughout the town connecting parks, schools and homes. Many of the secondary highways have large shoulder lanes that can easily accommodate side by side riders without interfering with vehicle traffic. Many of the trails have center lines to separate bike and foot traffic.

    Here in Cheyenne, again favorable weather might be six months, the Greenway(bike paths) extends through all parts of the city and where the Greenway meets streets there are bike underpasses so it is possible to travel the whole city without ever having to cross a street.

    In Colorado bike riding is allowed on the Interstates in rural areas with signs posted that tell the riders to ride in the extreme right shoulder. Colorado does have some ongoing problems in the Boulder Canyon area with conflicts between riders and residents who complain the riders use their yards as bathrooms, but the state is working on a plan to make the canyon more bike friendly and resident friendly.

    Colorado, Nebraska, and Wyoming are much friendlier to bikes then the Redding area. All three states have many more bike tours then I ever saw in Shasta County and it does boost the economy.

  7. Avatar Julie K. says:

    Everyone should at least try to ride a bike because it can save you a lot of time. Sometimes you need to get things done immediatly and that´s when bicycle comes handy. Parents ought to teach their children to ride the bikes or at least take them on biking trips so they find out it´s not something they should be scared of. It´s funny, it´s healthy and it´s easy. Try it!

  8. Avatar Peter Ludden says:

    Please let me invite you to visit the Netherlands: you will see what amazing things are happening here to get people on bikes! Experience the safety here, but also the new hype of E-bikes. Now you even see older people riding their bikes in high speed!

    Most cities here have special 'bike-highways' to stimulate biking from home to work. And there are even bike-highways from town to town.

    So: maybe a visit to the Netherlands will inspire you!