Infographic Of The Day: How Bikes Can Solve Our Biggest Problems

Americans are getting fatter every year, and weight-related diseases kill us at a rate second only to tobacco. There's been lots of proposed solutions to that problem—rejiggering the food pyramid, advertising campaigns, soda taxes. But the simplest of all might just be bikes. Yes, bikes.

If you live in the suburbs where any bike trip would be riding along a highway, that probably sounds totally insane. But this infographic produced by Healthcare Management Degree actually provides several data points that suggest that bikes might not be so ridiculous after all.

A few stats immediately leap out at you: For one, 70% of America's car trips are shorter than 2 miles, which translates to about an easy 10-minute bike ride:

The stats really get eye-popping in the second half of the panel above: 13 pounds in a year, just from riding to work?! The second panel then looks at the obesity rates in various European countries and compares them to the percentage of trips taken by bike:

Obviously, correlation isn't causation, but given how much weight you lose by riding to work, the data is pretty compelling. Then again, could Americans really commit to the cultural shift that biking all the time entails? After all, it's not like our gas prices are going up to $8 a gallon, as they are in Europe where gas taxes are huge. If you're trying to fight cars as an American politician, you'll be out of work fast. Especially since, as of this moment, only a tiny .6% of all errands and trips in this country are made via bikes.

But the last panel does actually suggest that change isn't totally impossible. Portland, which is covered with relatively new bike lanes, has 6% of its population commuting by bike; ridership across the country is growing.

There are suggestions that the government takes this trend serious: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been making noises about making biking easier and safer across the country. But nonetheless, the degree to which motorists seem to despise those on bikes is pretty amazing—in New York's own fights over bike lanes, the backlash has been vicious. How do you make cyclists safer without making drivers feel like they're under attack? The answer to that question could hold the key to our biking future.

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  • richardlachina

    Dear Cliff --

    Best article I've read in a long time.. I love the first sentence "Americans are getting fatter every year..".  How true!  I lost over 40lbs by riding a bike.. I get it.  The sad news is that I have to fight for my life almost daily just riding to my office.  Is 13lbs and saving a few bucks on gas worth your life?

    As you've indicated, we need real cycling infrastructure in more US cities!  I see improvements in San Diego (where I reside) and read about the same in other prominent US cities..

    For now, let's keep making noise, lobbying, educating and maybe someday everyone will (safely) loose their allotted 13 lbs.

    PS. Nice work Portland.

    Richard La China