There are no downsides to bicycles. Here are seven ways that bikes are good.
- Bikes contribute virtually no wear and tear on our roads. Every bike is one less vehicle clogging your lane during rush hour. They save time because they reduce the length of everyone's commute.
- Bikes compete for no expensive parking spaces. (A surface parking stall can cost around $10,000, an above ground ramp $15,000 a stall, and below ground parking goes for upwards of $40,000 per spot.) They demand no sprawling surface parking lots that retain heat in the summer and shed oil and sediment-laden water into our streams and lakes.
- Bikes are good for public health. They provide commuters with a little bit of exercise in a nation with an obesity epidemic. Bikes are about fun and freedom. They relieve stress.
- Bikes burn no fossil fuels. That means no contribution to global climate change, no air pollution, and no reliance on foreign sources of oil for which we fight wars. In terms of energy use, there is no more efficient form of transportation in the world.
- Bikes mean economic freedom. Ten years ago, I spent about $130 on my main commuting bike. Since then I've needed to replace the tires and the brake pads. Once in awhile I spray a little WD-40 on the chain and gears and pump up the tires. My annual cost of operation, including the original capital investment, has been around $25. Contrast that with the $9,600 a year that the average American spends to own and operate a car -- and that was based on 2006 gas prices of only $2.25 per gallon.
- Biking contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the Wisconsin economy. Major bike companies like Trek, Saris, Planet Bike and Pacific Cycle (they make Schwinns) are all located here. They employ lots of people (PDF) and their CEOs do a lot of philanthropy close to home. Then there's bike touring, bike shops and other bike-related businesses.
- There's another way that bikes are good for the local economy. Spend a dollar on gasoline and it goes directly out of the state. Save a dollar on gas and there's at least some chance that you'll spend it on some local service or product. Spending locally means that those dollars will bounce around here at home longer, creating more jobs than spending that flows directly away to Houston or wherever.
It is Bike to Work Week in Madison from today through Friday -- here are the events for it as presented by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. All this week, I'll think and write about bicycles in this space.