How to Increase Bike Commuting

Welcome to One More Cyclist, a blog devoted to sharing ideas and strategies on how to increase bike ridership.  My name is Dr. Eric France and I am the Chief of Population & Prevention Services for Kaiser Permanente in Denver Colorado.  I leave tomorrow, June 17, 2010 to spend two months in Portland Oregon where I will learn what this city has done to make it easy to ride your bike.  I will be meeting with many of the leaders in bike transportation while there and will blog on my learnings.  My goal for this sabbatical is to identify the key steps a community can take to increase bike ridership.  I hope to come back to Denver with a clearer picture of what local bike enthusiasts should be working on in order to have a meaningful impact on ridership.

I will be based at an academic center at Portland State University, called the Initiative for Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovation (see http://www.ibpi.usp.pdx.edu/), which is housed in the Center for Transportation Studies. 

As a physician, I often get funny looks when I speak to people about my interest in transportation issues – doesn’t sound very medical.  Truth is, there are few things as important for the health of our citizens than how we build our cities.  Can I bike to work?  Walk to school or the grocery store?  My day job at Kaiser Permanente has me building care delivery systems that make it easy for our members to get their mammograms, flu shots, cancer and heart screenings.  While these are important facets of health, the real upstream drivers of health are limited to a notable few: healthy eating, active living, moderate alcohol intake, no tobacco use.  Less than seven percent of Americans can say that they don’t smoke, AND are eating 5 fruits/veg a day, AND undertake 150 minutes of exercise a week, AND drink 1-2 alcoholic drinks a day (good for the heart!).   So more than 9 of every 10 Americans has an opportunity to improve their health behaviors.

Make the right thing the easy thing!  An important strategy for increasing physical activity is to incorporate it into our daily routines.  And what better routine than going back and forth to work? Or to school? Or to any of the daily trips we make?  The challenge here is that the right thing – active transportation to and from our routine desitinations – is anything but easy for many of us.  It’s easy if we drive, but is plain hard and maybe even dangerous if we try to walk or bike.  I believe this needs fixing – we need to get to work on transforming our cities into places where it’s easy to bike or walk to our destinations.

Portland is one of the most successful cities in encouraging active transportation.  I have ideas as to why, which I will share with you over the next few months.  Denver, Colorado, my home town, definitely has opportunities for improvement.  Here’s a town famous for its recreational lifestyle, and yet less than 2 percent of its citizens ride their bikes to work.  The Editors of the Denver Post newspaper wrote just today about the need for a better downtown infrastructure for bicycle commuting (see http://www.denverpost.com/editorials/ci_15303628).  They raise the question, does increase bike commuting lead to increased traffic congestion when the cyclists don’t have bikeways and must block traffic by riding in car lanes?

This and other questions I hope to address on this blog!  Thanks for reading and thinking with me about this topic.  I look forward to your topics and comments as we go.  Here’s to one more cyclist!

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One Comment on “How to Increase Bike Commuting”

  1. Aaron Snyder Says:

    Eric, Sounds like a delightful and fruitful sabbatical. I just today read an article in Bicycle Quarterly http://www.vintagebicyclepress.com/vbqindex.html about Frans Pauwels, a Portland bicycle pioneer. It sounds like he is a small piece of the “why here” of Portland cycling.
    Cheers,
    Aaron


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