“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”
~John F. Kennedy
We are here to celebrate the time-honored tradition of bicycling.
That is because today is the FIRST time we will officially celebrate World Bicycle Day.
The holiday was recently created by the United Nations, and it will be honored by the World Cycling Alliance in my hometown of Rio de Janeiro in June.
One thing is for sure: This beloved sport deserves the attention it is getting.
Let’s discover a little more about this wonderful form of exercise that is healthy both for your body and the environment
UC Davis and Bikes—a Special Relationship
World Bicycle Day will be greatly welcomed here in Davis, California where the community’s love for bikes has earned the city its nickname as the “Bicycle Capital of America.”
In fact, Davis was the FIRST city in the United States to create bike lanes. This occurred back in 1967, which was way ahead of its time. For example, San Francisco got its first protected bike lane in 2010 and Chicago in 2016!
Bikes were integral to the vision of Davis from the beginning.
In the 1960s, the University’s chancellor Emil Mrak was a huge cycling advocate. In 1961, as proposals for the emerging campus were being finalized, he specifically asked the architects to ‘plan for a bicycle-riding, tree-lined campus.’
In the early 1990s, Davis was once again a cycling visionary when it became one of the first US cities to install dedicated bike signal lights.
Today, Davis enjoys more than 100 miles of bike lanes or shared-use paths as well as 25 bike-only bridges and tunnels.
Within the Davis community, bikes account for an astonishing 20 percent of all trips. Twenty-four percent of the city’s residents bike to work (the highest percentage in the country), and all cars and buses stop at the top of every hour to make way for students and professors cycling to their classes.
In recognition of the city’s strong bike culture, the US Bicycling Hall of Fame moved from Somerville, New Jersey to Davis in 2010. The museum treats visitors to the highlights of cycling’s history including a collection of rare 19th-century bicycles.
The Popularity of Biking Is Soaring
Davis is only one place where bicycling is popular. According to a recent survey, the top cycling cities in the US (aside from Davis) include Portland, Oregon, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Philadelphia.
Throughout the US, bicycling to work has increased by more than 105 percent since 2000.
Bike riding enjoys even more popularity worldwide.
In a recent line-up of the ‘best cycling cities in the world,’ Europe dominates with Copenhagen (Denmark), Utrecht and Amsterdam (The Netherlands), Strasbourg (France) and Malmo (Sweden) ranked as the top five.
What Makes Biking So Irresistible?
Biking’s allure is universal because it is:
- Simple: You can enjoy biking without an expensive bike or special clothes.
- Versatile: You can bike on your own or with others, competitively or in a social context, in a city or in the country.
- Accessible: Biking can be done by almost anyone, anywhere and at any age.
- Convenient: Biking is a fast, handy way to get around that saves you the stress of traffic jams and the cost and hassle of parking.
- Energy Efficient: Bicycling is one of the most energy-efficient forms of transportation ever invented, leaving a minimal carbon footprint.
- Fun: Biking is the perfect way to enjoy your surroundings and the people in your life.
The Health Benefits of Bicycling
On top of all that, riding a bike provides a wealth of health benefits because it may:
- Protect You From Cardiovascular Disease and Other Chronic Illnesses: Studies suggest that biking may lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. Just 20 miles a week can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent!
- Help Control Weight and Reduce Body Fat: Regular cycling may help you lose weight and maintain a healthy body fat ratio. You can burn as much as 500 calories with an hour of riding.
- Relieve Stress and Improve Mood: Biking lowers cortisol levels in the blood and increases feel-good hormones like endorphins and the neurotransmitter serotonin. Biking may also help you get a better night’s sleep.
- Improve Overall Function of the Lower Body: While considered an aerobic exercise, biking also builds muscle strength in your lower body including your thighs, hips and gluteal muscles.
- Protect Joints: As a low-impact sport, cycling gives you a great cardiovascular workout that is easy on the joints. Some believe it might even improve joint health. Because it is low impact, cycling is an ideal choice for older people, athletes recovering from injury, and those who are new to exercise.
Collectively, biking provides you with a full body workout—a perfect example of the beauty and benefit of ‘moving naturally’ as we discussed in our blog post Connecting the Dots Between Eating and Exercise and again in our article Enter the Blue Zone.
Remember to Be Safe!
Last but not least, here are five tips to ensure that you keep your biking excursions safe.
- Wear a helmet.
- Be visible. Wear bright clothing and equip your bike with night light reflectors as well as a horn/bell and a rear view mirror.
- Make sure your bike is adjusted to your body in order to avoid developing neck, back or knee problems.
- Brush up on the rules of the road. (i.e., ride in the direction of the traffic flow, use hand signals when turning, obey light signals, and yield the right of way).
- Learn some simple maintenance so your bike is kept in tip top condition.
How to Celebrate International World Bicycle Day
Whoever you are and wherever you live, you can rediscover the joy of seeing the world atop a bicycle.
Every place—even those we know really well—can be seen in a new light when you view it on a bike.
And to do that, you are going to need energy! So whip up a batch of these Plant Power Granola Bars before you set out.
They are healthful and absolutely delicious!