By Dawna Matthews:
As a child I would often ride my bike around the neighborhood, feeling the wind in my hair, ringing the bell on my handlebars, and just smiling. I often came home sweaty but with a sense of freedom and feeling as if I had returned from a grand adventure.
Cycling is an activity people often leave in their youth once they are licensed to drive. Sure, there are people who bicycle for exercise or sport (hello, Le Tour de France) or maybe even engage in a “Bike to Work/School” day. Overall, though, we desert the bikes for cars as we grow into what we feel is an “adult” life.
The world is changing, though, and with it, the realization that all those cars aren’t necessary and that a sense of adventure is within our grasp every day. Over the last few decades, cities like Amsterdam and even cities here in the United States (Madison, WI; San Francisco, CA), have demonstrated that riding a bike every day is cool for ourselves and the environment.
Portland, Oregon, is at the forefront of making cycling an everyday activity — biking to school, to the store, to work, to everywhere. They have initiated a movement with children to show them how much fun it is and how it can be an activity they engage in as adults.
How do they do it? Portland is ablaze with a wonderful city infrastructure providing tons of trails and greenways, making cycling fun, convenient, and safe for families to bike to school. They provide secure bicycle parking as an incentive to feel safe about storing bicycles while at school, work, or wherever the journey leads. Lastly, they continuously educate the public about cycling’s physical and mental health benefits, as well as how it’s better for the environment.
Why should more cities and communities bike more? There are so many reasons why we all should jump on a bicycle and give it a spin. It’s wonderful for your body: cardiovascular health, strength and flexibility are all improved; and it helps with burning calories and managing weight. Cycling also benefits your mental and emotional stress. It allows you to enjoy the outdoors and reconnect with nature as well as feel rejuvenation and relaxation. Lastly, cycling is better for the environment and your community. Riding a bicycle decreases air pollution, oil and gas consumption, and noise pollution. Additionally, as you ride a bike, you can interact with other people in your community more, smell the roses, and discover something new.
I recently gave my daughter my childhood bicycle. As I cleaned my sparkly red bike, memories of my childhood adventures washed over me and filled my heart with joy. As I watched her learn to ride her bicycle, I was happy to have gifted her with a sense of joy and that freewheeling feeling of adventure with the wind blowing through her hair. I think that’s something we all need. Portland, Oregon, is making this happen more each day and so can you!
For information on who is biking: