Finding Bliss in the Bike Lane
Urban Rides are a Fun Way to Keep Fit
Richard Fries is the Director of Cycling Experience for the Best Buddies Challenges. With more than 40 years experience, he has been a racer, commuter, tourist, promoter, advocate, journalist and commentator on the sport and lifestyle of cycling. Having raced at the professional level both in America and Europe, Fries is well known as a race announcer having called countless USA Cycling National Championships, World Cups, and UCI World Championships. But he is also a tireless advocate having recently served as the executive director of MassBike. You can follow him on Strava to learn more.
Recently, I led a ride in tandem with a Best Buddies Friendship Walk in Boston.
I studied the map and realized there was a fantastic “Slow Roll” route that could carry us around the perimeter of Charlestown, under the Tobin Bridge, past the U.S.S. Constitution, under the Zakim Bridge, over the new North Point Park Bridge, around the Cambridge canal, up and over the Longfellow Bridge with its protected bike lane, and back over the new Frances Appleton bike bridge. And what was just the start. This entire ride had more than eight different types of new urban bicycle infrastructure. Average speed? About 8 mph. Fun factor? About 10 out of 10.
With it being the “off season”, urban touring is a fantastic way to keep active and spend time in your fat burning zone, which is a lower intensity that makes the body burn fat instead of sugars.
Far too many cyclists believe we need to drive out to some remote outpost to start a bike ride. This is largely due a general fear of cycling around automobiles. It makes sense- it can be a little frightening.
But let’s get one thing straight: bicycles work best in urban environments; cars do not. Mayors increasingly agree. Unable to find billions of dollars for transit projects, and unable to find space for any more futile road-widening projects), city officials are discovering that bicycle infrastructure does the most to ease congestion, improve public health, lower carbon emissions, and make their cities more livable. Mayors and city officials are working to encourage biking and discourage driving.
The installation of simple bike lanes is just a start. Boston, San Francisco, Miami and even the car-obsessed Los Angeles have all opened up bike share programs with incredible success. Bike share programs have proven to be a game changer in facing the first-mile, last-mile challenges of transportation. There are protected bike lanes, cycle tracks, bike bridges, bike boulevards, and far better bike parking solutions popping up in America’s biggest and best cities.
Having once been dubbed the worst biking city in America, Boston could easily win most improved. San Francisco has long been a leader. The race is on to be the best bike city with Portland, Minneapolis and Seattle in the lead. The Northeast and California are working hard to catch up. Despite its poor ranking, Miami is making a huge improvement with the construction of the Underline, a 10-mile bike path right through the spine of that car congested metropolis.
Why are they doing this? Because our valued Millennials are driving our economies but not driving cars. Recent studies show that more than 75 percent of 16 year olds have no driver’s license, a precipitous decline from prior generations. Companies such as Google, Apple and even WalMart are demanding improvements to make their host cities more livable. The giant biotech firm Biogen, just one year after moving its headquarters to a suburban campus, spent millions to move BACK into is downtown Cambridge, MA location due to employee dissatisfaction with the suburban commute.
Try urban cycling once and you’ll see why. It’s fast, fun and free. There are no tolls, free parking and hardly any traffic jams. Just ride in a fashion that is safe, courteous and legal and you can derive great joy and fitness through urban bike outings with minimal stress.
With a raincoat, lights and fenders, you can ride in just about all elements year round. Some of my most memorable bike rides have been on clunky hotel bikes in such places as Paris, Copenhagen, Maastricht and Hasselt, Belgium. Now, with bike share you can lead a group ride for family, coworkers or friends without everybody even needing their own bike!
A few tips for urban cycling: there should be stops. Lots and lots and lots of stops for gelati, coffee, sculpture, art, parks, pizza, historic sites, architecture and food trucks. Festival? Ride the bike. Concert? Ride the bike. The big game? Ride the bike.
While urban cycling is more than enough fitness in the off season to keep your base strong for the longer, faster rides in the spring, your fun per mile factor in a city is by far THE best way to train your soul.