Long days and warm temperatures make May the best month for bicycling in most of the United States. Appropriately, it's the designated National Bike Month. Independent of all weather trends, this May and this summer should be an amazing time for bicycling in America. Let me offer a few quick reasons.
During the last decade, the federal government, states, cities and towns have invested in bike lanes and paths as never before. The result? Bicycling is becoming safer and stress-free in more communities. More people -- including new and inexperienced riders -- now feel comfortable on two wheels.
Bicycling in many big U.S. cities has more than doubled in the last five years. Bikeways, including the new development of green lanes separated from motor vehicle traffic, are being built all over the country -- as are more bike paths, bike bridges and dirt trails. Safe Routes to School programs have been implemented in more than 12,000 U.S. schools. Automated, short-term bike rental systems will debut this summer in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and are already in place in Denver, Boston, Washington and dozens of other cities.
New, appealing places to ride coupled with convenient rental stations that offer solid, reliable and cheap bikes: that's a winning combination. So is paying special attention to the needs of eight-year-olds and 80-year-olds: that's how we make our communities better for everyone.
High gas prices this year have motivated thousands of Americans to think hard about alternatives. While most of our daily commutes are too long to pedal round-trip every day, we make plenty of other short trips that can easily be managed on two wheels. Pedal two miles (instead of drive) and you save at least a buck. Do it more often, and you save a lot. Half the trips that Americans make are three miles or less: we have so many possibilities.
More Americans now realize that when people ride bikes, great things happen. To start, bike riding cuts road congestion, helps preserve air quality and counters the obesity crisis that is weighing heavily on our nation's fiscal health. Riding a bike can be a simple (dare I say, patriotic?) way to take personal responsibility and reduce our national dependence on foreign oil. The simple fact is that when you ride a bike, you feel better.
The list of bike benefits is long, but we all know that bike riding remains far from easy or comfortable in many of the places we live and work.
Here's the good news: an increasing percentage of our national leaders recognize bicycling as a simple solution for transportation challenges, jobs and economic development and health and obesity issues.
Two springs ago, we launched a new national movement called PeopleForBikes.org to show elected officials that Americans revere bicycling and want it to be safe and stress-free. More than a half million people have rallied behind this cause by signing a simple pledge at PeopleForBikes.org. I encourage you to join us.
Warm weather will come and go. But meanwhile, the simple idea that bicycling is a great activity that more Americans can safely enjoy is here to stay.
Follow Tim Blumenthal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/peopleforbikes