Over the last several years I've occasionally pondered the benefits of walking and biking in place of driving. In my mind there are several advantages, though I will just focus on a few.
One of the clear and most recognized benefits is exercise. My peak fitness levels over the years have occurred during periods of bicycle-dependent transportation. During these times, I could keep up with friends on mountain bike trails even when I wasn’t riding the trails frequently simply due to endurance built through everyday cycling. While commuting by bike adds to my travel time, the exercise it provides enables me to cancel a few dedicated workouts throughout the week.
A second advantage is the way walking and biking lends itself to mental clarity and promotion of thought. I’ve noticed clearer and increased levels of thinking when biking or walking. For me, the slower a transportation source becomes (car to bike to foot) the more my mind is free to think about things on a deeper level. Although I’m not certain of the cause, I attribute it to the having more time and being less distracted when compared to the often-stressful car commute. When compared to car travel, walking and biking promotes a peaceful existence and stress reduction.
Last, I connect more with my surroundings when I’m outside of a car. I am more prone to exchange a smile, eye contact , or even a few words with someone walking by, than I would behind my music-filled metal and glass world. Just last week I had a conversation with a fellow cyclist, which was sparked by his one word question: “commuting?” This brief encounter, fueled by our bicycle connection and crossing of paths, left me feeling energized and was a bright spot in my day.
As a resident of Old West Durham shared with me recently:
Given the choice, we wouldn't want to live anywhere other than a walkable, urban neighborhood like Old West Durham. We can walk to a lot of amenities, like several great restaurants, shopping, dry cleaners, and even the grocery store. In our neighborhood, traveling to Ninth Street or Broad Street is a short walk on all pleasant, neighborhood streets- a far cry from getting in the car and navigating the multi-lane madness of the suburbs. But more than that, in a neighborhood like ours we can really get to know our neighbors. On our street we run into people walking their dogs, or working in their yards, or even talking to other neighbors out in the street. When we head down to Dain’s or The Regulator, we often run into people we know from the neighborhood. So for us, the walkable scale of our neighborhood not only gives us convenience, it also helps us be part of the community.
In conclusion, even in the midst of winter, consider how you might trade the car a few days a week to travel by bicycle or a pair of shoes. As a result, you should notice advances in your physical and mental health, thought-life, and connection with the community around you. I hope to see you on a Durham sidewalk soon.