Raising the (Handle) Bar on Cycling

Bicycles are on the rise. Worldwide, bicycles already outnumber cars by 2 to 1 and are the most common form of transportation. The number of people who drive bicycles in Asia, alone, is twice as large as the number of all people who drive cars worldwide. During rush hour in many Asian cities there are two bicycles on the road for every car. More than half of all the people who live in Holland, Denmark and Germany own a bicycle. In recent years, the use of bicycles to commute to work in the U.S. has increased by more than 60%. Vermont ranks 19th in the United States in terms of the number of people who commute to work on a bicycle. 

There are more than 100 million bicycles in the U.S., and some 52 million bicycle riders. City buses in Seattle, San Diego and Washington State have bike racks on the outside for people who commute to work by combining bicycling with mass transit. In Portland, Oregon—a city with 300 miles of bicycle lanes—bikes are used eight times as often as in the rest of the United States. Montreal has 300 bicycle stations throughout the city with 3,000 bicycles that anyone can use. Each station has Wi-Fi available and is powered by the Sun. Even in car-loving New York City, bicycle use has multiplied by 80% in the past decade. E-bikes are rapidly gaining in popularity in both urban and rural areas.

Other bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S. include Columbia, Missouri; Boulder, Colorado; Tucson, Arizona; Louisville, Kentucky; Carmel, Indiana and Davis, California, which was one of the first communities to embrace bicycles. Canadian cities that are working to encourage cycling include Victoria and Vancouver, British Columbia; Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario; and Montreal and Quebec City, Quebec. Some of the highest levels of cycling in Canada are found in British Columbia, in the chilly Yukon and Northwest Territories and in the cities of Kingston, Ontario and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

In addition to being driven for commuting and recreation, bicycles have many other practical uses. Mail is delivered by bicycle in Australia and northern Europe. Police patrol from the seat of a bicycle in London, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle and Victoria, British Columbia. Bicycles appear less threatening and help officers to get to know people in the neighborhoods where they patrol. People in many countries use tricycles for making deliveries and hauling things to market.

Many kids in North America grow up riding a bicycle to get around because bicycles are fast, cheap and fun. Today, in many places, riders have local bike paths that often connect to longer trail networks. The Adventure Cycling Association maintains a 38,000-mile network of bike trails in the United States, along with maps and cycle tours (https://www.adventurecycling.org/).

But the U.S. still has a long way to go. Out of every 200 commuters, only one now rides a bike to work. Many towns and cities don’t have good bike lanes to help make riding safe. And bicycles still have to be accepted and seen as a “normal” choice for getting around before many people will begin to use them.  

No matter how much time and effort it takes to help grow the use of bicycles in place of cars, it will be worth the effort for the sake of Earth. One of the best things about bicycles is that they contribute little, if anything, to global warming gases. When everything is added and subtracted to the amount of carbon dioxide created and absorbed by a person riding a bicycle, it balances out to about zero. That’s pedal power! And it’s why bicycles are “cool” for the planet.

What You Can Do:

Photo caption: “This intersection in Amsterdam, Netherlands, is alive with cyclists.”Photo credit: “Photo by Noralí Nayla on Unsplash.”

Going Places With Pedal Power 

Here are some ways to use your bicycle, from fun to the practical. 

  • go out and play games or sports
  • visit friends and family
  • pick things up at the local store
  • exercise and keep in shape
  • ride on a designated mountain bike trail
  • take a historical tour
  • visit a museum
  • ride to a nature center and take a hike in the outdoors
  • go to a community bike trail or rail trail and take a long ride
  • pedal to a park for a picnic
  • start a small, local delivery service and make some extra money

For longer trips, the best equipment for carrying things is a bike rack for the rear and a set of saddlebags or panniers. Twin bags that drape over the bike rack above the rear wheel sit low on the bicycle, which helps you to hold the road and doesn’t interfere with steering. Make sure to put equal amounts of weight in each side of the saddlebags so that the load doesn’t pull you off to one side, especially when cornering.


Learn more about our Vermont Standard articles.