BRADENTON -- The city streets just keep getting more crowded, parking more expensive and it can often take 20 minutes to get 20 blocks during rush hour. In 1980, Buckminister Fuller calculated, that there were two million cars sitting still, stopped and idling, in front of a red light for the largest part of each day. Now there are more than twice that many cars on the road, then were 30 years ago, and an increased amount of traffic lights, not to mention the enormous traffic jams. This clearly takes the number of idling and going nowhere cars in the U.S. to over five million. There are over 225 million registered cars in the country.
The Consumer Energy Center of California, estimates, a idling car burns near one gallon of fuel per hour. That's an estimated 50 million gallons, or nearly 1.25 million barrels (40 gal. per BLL.), a day, goes out through our exhaust pipes while going nowhere. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says we used approximately 20 million barrels of oil per day in 2010.
But there is a cure for this "I'm stuck in traffic and I can't get out" lifestyle. The remedy offers more than just relief from costly fuel and parking, rude lane changers and tailgaters, and a number of other blood boiling conundrums we set ourselves up for nearly every day. Many of us already have what we need to escape, and those that don't, can get it fairly cheap. It's a bicycle.
There are nearly 100 million bicycles in the U.S. and most of them aren't being used. For every person that gets on a bike, that's one less car on the road, one more parking meter that won't be used and many gallons of fuel that won't be needed, helping us become more energy independent. That translates to cleaner air, less road work and extending the life of your car. The real winner is, the one who gets on the bike and they get a guarantee to extended life too.
Those who start a cycling program generally lose an average of five pounds a month. It would amount to more, but along with the burning of calories and fat comes increased muscle in the legs, back and shoulders. Cycling improves lung capacity, better breathing, and helps to prevent heart disease. Peddling to just some of the places one goes, can save many dollars and it's a great way to meet some of the people you never would have met driving by in a car.
Every year, surveys show some of the happiest and friendliest people in the world come from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway. It is not a coincidence many of these places have a social culture that embraces parks, town squares and yes, bicycles. Merchants thrive in people-friendly environments where streets belong to the pedestrians and cyclist as well as to the vehicles.
Bicycles, for free use, in Hoge Veluwe National Park,
in the Netherlands
Amsterdam, is known as the bike capitol of the world with 40 percent of its traffic movement is cyclist. There are bicycle routes equal to what is available to motor vehicles and in many ways more efficient, and a social environment that promotes a healthier and more active life style.
Denmark has more than once, in recent years, been voted the happiest society in the world. Copenhagen was named by Forbes one of the best 10 places to live. It is also home to the world's most successful community bicycle program. Nearly everyone in denmark has a bike, and 32 percent of workers use one to go to work.
Basel, Switzerland -- Barcelona, Spain -- Sandnes, Norway, are all equipped with a network of paths and roads that provide cyclist with routes for safe journey. The amenities these places have found in transforming their lives to ones of quality over quantity are obvious and plentiful.
We know these changes can work here too. There are a few U.S. cities that have adopted some of these programs and are already experiencing many of the rewards that come from making a few changes.
Portland, Oregon, has found great success in developing a strong cycling network. Portland's "Create-a-Commuter" program provides low-income residents commuter bicycles, and classes on how to operate them safely. They also provide them with helmets and lights. Boulder, Colorado has "safe bike routes" for schools, where 75 percent of their students walk or bike to school. More than 4,000 residents participated in their "bike to work" day.
Biking will save you and your town money, increases the overall health of all that participate and helps to promote a more productive workforce. Go to your local government leaders, and insist a sizable percentage of all impact fees go to improving pedestrian and bicycle transportation. This is how many European and U.S. cities started their programs. Put the pedal to the metal to get clean and green.
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