Florida Weekly 'Outdoors' column, October 23, 2019
Since the early 1990s, a daily goal of mine has been to forego using my car whenever possible, not just for our environment’s sake (both the natural and transportation environments) but also for my personal health and well being. For many years I was able to do so on a relatively frequent basis, meaning being car-free two or three days a week.
For 10 years I was able to commute to work by bike for the five-mile ride in about the same time it took to drive, thanks to having to navigate downtown traffic.
However, since adding driving evaluations to my professional workload around six years ago and taking on new responsibilities in my family — including being the sole driver — it’s become much less common to not have to drive at least once each day. But not being able to meet my ideal target of being car-free hasn’t meant I don’t use active transportation as much as possible. I still walk, ride my bike or even run to take care of errands, attend meetings or for work-related tasks. Life changed, so I adapted.
|Dan Moser is a long-time bicycle/pedestrian |
advocate and traffic safety professional
who cycles, runs and walks regularly for
transportation, recreation and fitness.
Contact him at email@example.com
According to the summary from the study to be published in the December issue of Journal of Transport and Health, those who regularly use active transportation are actually more likely to engage in other exercise, at least among the study’s subjects from the United States and the Netherlands. In the researchers’ words, “active travel does not substitute for other forms of exercise, but instead adds to total daily physical activity.” They further conclude: “Our findings imply significant health benefits could flow from engaging in active travel. Since the relationship between physical activity and positive health outcomes is well-established, we can presume that people who engage in active travel are likely to enjoy health benefits that they would not otherwise experience.”
Their findings are what I consider a win-win for individuals (health benefits and transportation savings) and the community at large (less traffic congestion, less pollution and potential tax dollar savings). The usual disclaimer stating that more research is necessary is actually more confident of the study results and is rather ambitious: “Future research should attempt to quantify these benefits.”
Along with the benefits I’ve already described is another I believe to be as important as anything else: I contend that being a regular walker, runner or bike rider makes one a better driver, at least for those who generally follow rules when engaging in those activities. (I’m thinking cyclists who routinely blow through red lights and stop signs or ride against traffic would not be better drivers).
One recent study, titled “ ‘Maybe I Will Just Send a Quick Text…’ – An Examination of Drivers’ Distractions, Causes, and Potential Interventions,” conducted by the Institute of Transport Economics and published in Frontiers in Psychology, determined that bike riders spend 21% less time speeding than the typical driver and have 14% fewer hard braking incidents.
They’re also generally less distracted than the average driver by about 6%. My experience convinces me that those of us who must deal with bad driving behavior on a regular basis while on our walks, runs and bike rides become more aware of the vulnerable road users we encounter when driving. I think this awareness also goes beyond how we drive around non-motorists, meaning we drive with more overall awareness, courtesy and compassion for all of our fellow road users.
¦ A worthy upcoming local bike ride. The Trek Poker Ride, which benefits United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades Counties, takes place on Sunday morning, Nov. 3, from Trek’s Fort Myers store on Six Mile Cypress Parkway at Colonial Boulevard. More info can be found at www.trekbikesflorida.com.
To learn about this topic and more, visit bikewalklee.blogspot.com and www.streetsaliveswfl.org.¦
For Lee County cycling and tri events visit Caloosa Riders Bicycle Club (caloosariders.org); Florida Mudcutters (mudcutters.org); and SW Florida Biking Meetup Group (meetup.com/Biking-SWFL). The Florida Bicycle Association (floridabicycle.org) is your source for statewide happenings. BikeWalkLee’s blog site has all the information you’ll need to stay abreast of advocacy efforts in Southwest Florida as well as statewide and nationally.