Though the U.S. has seen a 40 per cent growth in bicycle commuters since 2000, their numbers have yet to surpass 1 million. In contrast, there are 204 million personal vehicles on the road on a given day.
That’s a shame.
Not only does biking to work have the potential to improve individuals’ health, wealth, and standard of living, but the combination of more cyclists and fewer cars on the road could give the entire country a much-needed boost.
Due to rising fuel costs and tire upkeep, the cost of owning a car increased nearly 2 per cent in 2012 to $8,946, according to AAA.
It costs just $308 per year to keep bikes in shape----nearly 30 times less than cars, according to the Sierra Club:
'If American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly 2 billion gallons of gas. At $4 per gallon, total savings would be $7.3 billion a year.'
Cycling could help you get there faster for a lot less.
'Half of the working population in the U.S. commutes five miles or less to work, with bike trips of three to five miles taking less time or the same amount of time as commuting by car,' writes Kiplinger editor Amanda Lilly.
There's been a wave of new bike share programs in major cities like Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, and Miami, which typically allow riders 30 to 45 minutes of free transportation for a small annual fee.
'The most important socio-economic impact of cycling lies in the area of health care,' says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists.
Nowhere is that more clear than in Portland, Ore. A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that 'during the next 30 years, Portland's residents could save as much as $594 million in health care costs because of an investment into biking culture' and 'fuel savings of $143 to $218 million.'
Much unlike cars, the more bicycles on the road, the safer it becomes for cyclists, research shows.
'It's a virtuous cycle,' Dr. Julie Hatfield, an injury expert from UNSW, says.
'The likelihood that an individual cyclist will be struck by a motorist falls with increasing rate of bicycling in a community. And the safer cycling is perceived to be, the more people are prepared to cycle.'
Fresh air does a body good. A recent study by the University of Nottingham found public transit riders were 'six times more likely to suffer from acute respiratory infections,' the New York Daily News reports.
Supposedly, occasional riders were even more at risk. Another study found a host of illness-causing viruses lurking in passenger vehicles, including E. coli, salmonella, and campylobacter, according to Safetyissues.com.
Since January 2012, cyclist commuters have been entitled to a $20 per month tax-free reimbursement for bike-related expenses.
This applies to workers who bike at least three days per week to the office. Qualifying expenses include bike repairs and storage expenses, according to the National centre for Transit Research.
As women age, they become increasingly susceptible to bone deterioration through osteoporosis.
A team of researchers from a Swedish university found middle-aged women were less likely to sustain wrist fractures if they commuted by bike or participated in other physical activities like walking.
Hundreds of major companies have entered the American League of Bicyclists' 'Bicycle Friendly Business' program and cities like New York require commercial office buildings by law to offer some sort of bike storage.
Otherwise, invest in a sturdy bike lock and all you need is a spare bike rack or street sign to park your ride. Folding bikes are another useful option, as they can be packed into a bag and stashed easily under a desk or a closet.
Cyclists in cities like Copenhagen have become the poster children for the benefits of cycling, both at the micro- and macroeconomic level.
In its 2012 Bicycle Account, the city says bike commuters generated savings ($0.42 for each mile biked) in just about every way imaginable: lowered transportation costs, security, branding/tourism, traffic infrastructure, and public health.