The results are in, and Wisconsin is the winner! The 2014 National Bike Challenge just ended, and our state edged out last year’s winner, Nebraska, with over 7800 participants (including 40 from Children’s Hospital!) pedaling 3.9 million miles, of which 70% were for recreation and 30% were for transport. That’s 1.3 million miles of commuting and errands that might otherwise have required a car. In Wisconsin alone, we kept 3.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
The environmental impact is one of many reasons I and others choose to try to get around as much as possible on two wheels. Much of the year it’s just nice to be outside, and it can be a really relaxing way to unwind at the end of the day. Of course, it’s also a good way to get in some exercise while also doing something useful (spoken like a true multi-tasker). The Wisconsin contingent burned a collective 213 million calories cycling during the five months of the challenge. Just think of all the deep fried cheese curds we could eat afterward….
People are catching on. I’ve noticed the bike racks here at the hospital getting more and more full. Nationally, miles driven are down, and the number of people bicycling to work increased in 85 of the 100 largest metro areas between 2000 and 2010. According to the Guardian, not only are individual workers recognizing the benefits and switching, but businesses are finding that promoting cycling actually improves their bottom line. Businesses with access to protected bike lanes (such as you find everywhere in Denmark and the Netherlands) have higher sales per parking spot (car vs. bike); real estate values are higher; and workers are healthier.
Some recent local developments could make the picture even brighter for cyclists. The city of Milwaukee has been adding bike lanes, and Wauwatosa, as part of a comprehensive cycling and pedestrian plan, is adding high-visibility green bike lanes to North Ave. And we are finally catching up, albeit slowly, with the bike-sharing trend in many cities. Bublr, a Milwaukee bike share start-up, currently has 10 stations around the city, with plans to increase that to 100. (Several locations on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center campus and in the village of Wauwatosa are being considered.)
Yes, I know winter will be here before we know it (or want it), but there’s still plenty of fall days left. (And don’t rule out winter commuting.) Give it a try. We don’t want those Cornhuskers to catch us.