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Over many years, there has been a debate among different scholars on the benefits of cycling. Most scholars have agreed that cycling is physically, socially and environmentally sound. However, another group though agreeing to these facts has cautioned that cycling may also come with such risks as increased number of accidents. The debate has shown change in policies by various governments. Such measures are specifically designed to promote cycling as the preferred mode of transport especially over short distances. Governments of Belgium and France for example have implemented low cost rental systems aimed at stimulating commuters to use bicycles for short urban trips. Such policies aim at reducing traffic congestion and promotion of health through reduction of air pollution and increasing of physical activities.
Physical benefits of cycling
The American college of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association have recommended the use of cycling as a necessary physical activity for all. They noted that to promote and maintain health, all healthy adults ranging between 18-65 years of age needs moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on five days each week (Cook et al 5). Their studies have shown that for young people, 6o minutes of moderate to vigorous activity on a daily basis is vary necessary. Their finding showed that Leisure cycling or cycling to work at 15 km/hr can be an effective moderate activity. Therefore, whenever one shifts from using a car or any other vehicle to using the bicycle for a daily short distance of 7.5 km, he/she would meet the minimum recommendation for physical activity in five days.
Studies have shown that moderate activity such as cycling strengthen the immune system and thus contributes to healthy life. Moderate cycling also has a potential of increasing activity against tumor cells and therefore assists one in preventing related illness. Studies have also shown that during cycling most of the body muscles are activated. Cycling also trains and tightens up the muscular system making it stronger and able to function efficiently. Cycling has also been proved to have a positive effect on bone density and strength. The muscular system which is strengthened by cycling also offers both support and protection to the skeletal system.
Cycling also strengthens the spine and secures it against the external stresses. Scholars have found out that cycling can even stimulate the small muscle of vertebrae which may not be affected through other exercises. It thus helps in the reduction of back pain and other related problems. Cycling is also good in protecting and feeding cartilages through its circular movement. This reduces the likelihood of arthrosis. Cycling also strengthens one’s respiratory muscles which improves the ventilation of the lungs boosting oxygen exchange. Moderate cycling can prevent and reduce high blood pressure which in turn helps one to avoid stroke or any other kind of damage to the organs (Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation 1).
Research has shown that those on the higher quintiles of physical activity are less likely to develop coronary heart diseases. Moderate intensity exercises such as cycling assist in weight management and smoking cessation. It also reduces the level of depression and stress and relieves the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome in women. Cycling is also a very versatile form of fitness training as it reduces straining of the joints. The cycling exercises can be adopted to suit both the health and fitness of the participants. It is also appealing because of its convenience as it can be undertaken everywhere.
Environmental benefits of cycling
The need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions has become an issue of primary concern both at the community levels and amongst all the levels of government. Cycling represents a zero emission form of transport and has therefore been identified as capable of providing significant environmental benefits. This is especially true for short trips covering less than 2km. In its complimentary role as a form of active transport, scholars have argued that cycling contributes to cleaner air and reduces the congestion in major cities. In many cities like London Bike lanes have been constructed to help reduce traffic congestion, accidents, air pollution and climate change.
In London alone, transportation contributes approximately 37% of green house gas emissions. Bicycles are people powered and do not produce these gases. Riding a bike to work can therefore promote a clean air for all. Studies have shown that burning one liter of gasoline produces about 2.4 kilograms of CO2 . This shows the need for an alternative means of transport which cycling readily offers for short distances. Studies have also shown that half of Canadians’ green house gas emission is from driving. Noting that CO2 is the main contributor to climate change, its effect can be greatly reduced by cycling on short distances travels. Cycling can also be promoted as a measure to conserving fossil fuel reserves.
Using a bicycle as a means of transport also reduces the parking hassles in urban areas through providing a convenient door to door access. Provision of cycling facilities can reduce traffic speeds and volumes in urban areas thereby improving the quality of life in our towns. Cycling also reduces noise pollution. It also increases the opportunity for one to observe experience and enjoy the scenery of the environment. This makes people appreciate the value of the environment and the need for its conservation.
Social benefits to cycling
Most scholars have argued that the presence of cyclists within an area can contribute to a community social well being in several ways. The number of people cycling is often used as an indicator to show community’s livability. The ability to ride a bike in a city is an indication of social vitality. We all benefit from social interactions of more people being out and about. Cycling also increases tourism thereby increasing the chances of inter-societal interaction which promotes coexistence (Cook et al 4).
Cycling for recreation and transportation enables interaction between neighbors. This in turn strengthens the relationships and contributes to a healthy sense of identity and place among various individuals. Supporting bicycle use increases mobility and accessibility for it can be afforded by the majority. Cycling also enhances personal security and crime prevention because more eyes are on the street. The provision of improved facilities of cyclists can also improve amenities available to local residents and their civic pride. Cycling also increases independence especially for school age children. In conclusion, it is therefore clear that necessary steps need to be taken in promotion of cycling in order to realize these benefits.