I have always believed that cycling offers several benefits, not only for the individual person, but to the environment and to the society where the individual belongs. Health benefits stands out among these, followed by the lessening of man’s impact on the environment. Bikers get their dose of exercise while going to their destination, virtually multitasking, thus accomplishing more.
Those who advocate cycling have all the right reasons to do so. Pardon the bias but I am a cycling advocate. On the other hand, anti bike advocates would also present their own evidence to prove their point.
I just found this post from Bike Biz, dated August 22, 2005, presenting two opposing views of the benefits and risks involved in cycling. One part of the article cites a study by the British Heart Foundation that “cycling in cities is bad for your health” and goes on to say that cyclist should be as far as possible from congested roads. While I think it is logical to conclude that cycling in congested roads is bad for the cyclist, we have to qualify the situations that merit such conclusion. I have been biking to work for more than a year now and I would have perhaps, inhaled the equivalent of a ton of toxic fumes if I did not know better than to follow a smoke belcher direct behind. I would usually either give way and let the offending vehicle go so far ahead of me, or I would simply slow down or stop completely on the side to let the fumes go away. And why would I deliberately bike on major roads where those smoky monsters thrive, while I can go through the less traveled and less polluted side roads? It may take me a little longer to arrive at my destination but at least I protected myself and avoided a slow self destruction.
To present the more favorable (at least for me) argument, the article cited a response from CTC, Cyclist’s Touring Club, stating that “health gains from cycling far outweigh pollution risks.” According to CTC rebuttal of the BHF’s study:
“Other research shows that the air which cyclists breathe is a lot less polluted in the first place than that which accumulates inside a car. This is because cyclists are more likely to ride at the side of the road and to reach the front of stationary traffic queues, whereas vehicle occupants are more likely to be stuck behind the exhaust pipe of the vehicle in front of them. Hence vehicle occupants are exposed to air with pollutant concentrations 2-4 times higher than that breathed by vehicle occupants, depending on the type of pollutant.”
Banning cyclist from major roads in the guise of protecting them from harmful carbon emissions from motorized vehicles will not solve the current environmental crisis. This would only encourage more cars to be on the road. However no biker in his right mind would deliberately put himself/herself in harm’s way if he or she knew the risks. There are many ways to protect oneself from pollution, but no amount of protection would work if pollution becomes overwhelming and unstoppable.
Instead of relegating cyclist somewhere else, why not encourage more car owners to leave their cars behind and get on a bike? More bikes mean less pollution. Less pollution means healthier individuals.