One Red Bike

A stolen peek at a lovely red bicycle parked in the back lane of an apartment house in Toronto.  We have a municipal election underway in Toronto this year and some of our proto-Mayors have decided to unleash a war on the bicycle in an effort to woo suburban Toronto voters (it is assumed they all drive to work); it makes absolutely no sense from an urban planning and policy perspective, but who said democracy should make sense?  Toronto faces challenges similar to many cities, with infrastructure in need of repair, smog days in the summer, and a desperate need for improved mass transit and alternative modes of transportation.  In light of the challenges cities face today the humble little bicycle stands as a great public policy opportunity for a number of reasons:

  • increased bicycle use for commuting to work and short trips (e.g. groceries, coffee shop, rent movies) immediately reduces the number of cars on the road thereby easing congestion;
  • emissions from burning of fossil fuels is reduced thereby reducing risk or severity of smog and other pollution events;
  • reduced automobile congestion eases strain on roads thereby extending infrastructure life and saving precious cash for other public investments and/or reducing taxes;
  • citizens who use bicycles save money giving them increased discretionary income to spend on non-auto related products/services and thereby diversifying the economy;
  • general public health improves due to increased use of bicycles;
  • positive health impacts result in broader social savings in healthcare whether in public systems (e.g. Canada, Europe) or private systems (United States); and
  • Happiness Index increases due to people hopping on their shiny red bikes, zipping along and having fun.

There is a better way forward.  We just have to be brave enough to give it a spin.  As a challenge to yourself this year try to make a point of consciously choosing cycling or walking instead of driving to run short errands.  Even better, aim to commute to work on your bike once a week (there are many resources on the internet and if you can’t find them just leave a comment here and I will send them to you).  You will be amazed at what you can do and how much fun it is.

As Mr. Gandhi said, “you must be the change you want to see in the world.”

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