A healthy Colorado achieved through biking: Our movement’s impact on public health in Colorado
We’ve all heard it—Colorado is proud to be one of the “healthiest” states in the United States.
But at Bicycle Colorado, we think we can always strive for more! Even though we’re at the top, how can we envision a better Colorado for the near future and for the next generation? Let’s explore the ways that bike infrastructure and biking attitudes and behaviors are critical to public health, starting with how riding bikes impacts our health each and every day.
5 ways biking connects with public health for Coloradans
Colorado infrastructure was built by-and-large for cars. Choosing cars at the expense of other modes of transportation has direct impacts on the safety of all Coloradans, and especially those outside of vehicles.
The sheer number and size of our cars here in the States poses a safety threat, and crashes are increasingly deadly for folks walking, biking and rolling.
Safety stats for Coloradans trying to get from point A to point B are not as good as we and our members at Bicycle Colorado believe they can be. The societal cost of unsafe streets and streets built for cars is lives lost here in Colorado every day. It’s a public health issue, and it’s pushing bicyclists off the streets for fear of one day being part of the statistics. We can certainly do better here in Colorado!
The good news: as more Coloradans travel by bike, our roads will become safer. Having safer streets for bicyclists and pedestrians gets us biking more and driving less, increasing safety for all and encouraging our collective health.
By riding bikes for recreation and transportation, each of us helps reduce air pollution and noise pollution to keep Colorado healthier! To quote our recent article, “Bicycling is generally pretty simple: put some food in a human, put them on a long-lasting machine powered by them or by a small amount of electricity (e-bikes!) and you have a highly efficient mode of transportation that doesn’t use gasoline and doesn’t pollute our air.”
Bikeable and walkable communities are much more accessible than car-centric communities, where there are fewer options for residents to get around. In many areas of Colorado where our members live (not to mention our out-of-state members!), car ownership feels necessary for getting to work, getting your kids to school and getting groceries.
We thrive in coherent communities. A community built for folks walking and biking and for buses and trains is a community that is much more accessible and connected for folks who cannot drive, including kids, older adults, folks experiencing disabilities, or folks without the cash for car and insurance payments. Coherent communities, with strong zoning and infrastructure, are not just equitable for all ages and body types; inclusive design and behaviors make all of us healthier through the freedom to move our bodies through our environments.
We’ve heard it a lot over the past year—we’re all in this together.
But is it true if we don’t feel it? If we don’t look another person in the eye and say hello and feel connected with our neighbor? Too little interaction with other humans leads to feelings of isolation, but bikes can fix that. Bikes help us feel we are in this together through the power of connection, whether connecting with other people on the road, bike path, mountain bike trail, or riding on our residential streets.
5. Personal health.
You are more likely to get active and get out on a bike ride when your environment is built for it and encourages it. We can get exercise throughout the day by riding a bike for transport, or we can go out and exercise on a recreational ride. Both are much easier—and safer—with better infrastructure and a culture where biking is valued. And this is important because, on an individual level, bicycling keeps our minds and our bodies healthy.
As the Director of Routt County Public Health, I am a supporter of Bicycle Colorado as the mission of Bicycle Colorado aligns nicely with goals that we pursue every day to keep communities healthy and safe. Creating greater access for bicycles in communities improves the overall health of our citizens. When more people take to bikes as a primary mode of transportation this helps improve the overall air quality as well. When organizations such as Bicycle Colorado and state and local health departments can work towards common goals the rewards are magnified!
Bike infrastructure is a crucial piece of the puzzle for healthy mountain, plains, and mesa communities
Our wellbeing and the health of our society are clearly impacted by biking. Better bike infrastructure is one method of encouraging people to choose two or three wheels.
What trails or bike lanes or bike-friendly roads have you enjoyed the most? Here’s a selection of some of our favorites here in Colorado and beyond. Infrastructure is key to healthier, bike-friendly communities, and bike-friendly communities tend to be more pedestrian-friendly and lead to better access for kids and seniors as well!
As you scroll the photos, reflect on how this infrastructure is being used and how it makes each of these communities healthier (and not just for bicyclists). What can you envision where you live, work and ride?
I’m passionate about being a part of Bicycle Colorado as a member and on staff because our roads, parking lots, sidewalks, and bike trails impact each and every one of us daily. I truly believe that more equitable and stronger communities built with bikes always on the forefront of our minds will lead us to improved public health in Colorado where all of us can thrive. It’s a matter of life and death for some, and on a societal scale transportation and its impacts are crucial to consider. It’s our right and responsibility to foster communities where every member can get around and recreate and live in safety and with access to health.
Two ways for you to take action today!
1. Help us build the movement—seriously.
Attitudes toward biking are crucial to influencing public health and achieving better infrastructure, which is why part of our strategy at Bicycle Colorado is to build a true movement.
We ask everyone reading this today to talk to friends and family about the need for better bike infrastructure as it relates to public health and why bikes are part of the answer toward getting our communities healthy. To get closer to our vision, we truly need a movement (backed by lobbying and money!).
As with any movement, people need to have a vision and believe in what might seem like the impossible. We need voices, and lots of them.
2. Become a member.
Today and through Memorial Day, you can get our newest swag by becoming a member with a $30 donation. Please click here to check it out and donate today!