Do you remember your first bike? That question was a big part of the presentation made by Dan Austin, author and founder of “88 Bikes” at the Palm Springs 4th Annual Sustainability Celebration. The event, which featured an exhibit area of local green and sustainable businesses, groups and organizations focused on promoting another year of growing and learning about ways to improve our desert community. An exciting new piece of that puzzle would be an all valley bikeway from Palm Springs to the Salton Sea–a stretch of nearly 50 miles.
Why should everyone care about creating these kinds of bikeways? According to Austin the number one reason most people give as an excuse for not biking more is safety. A plan to put a bikeway along a local storm-water control basin (The Whitewater Wash) would be completely independent of other vehicle traffic and provide one of the safest avenues available.
The second reason people give for not biking more is that our culture doesn’t encourage or embrace it as much as other countries. For example, the most bike friendly city in the US is Portland Oregon with 6% of the population using bikes. In contrast, in Copenhagen, 37% of the population regularly bikes. That is because the Scandinavian culture both encourages biking for it’s population—and because it is important to them, they make sure it is safe.
The final reason American’s don’t bike much is what he called, “sweatiness.” In our culture a great deal of emphasis is placed on looking cool—and let’s face it—smelling cool. Rather than embracing a healthy and perhaps more active naturaldemeanor, we emphasize a cool and clean behavior and thereby avoid certain exercise.
Still, the benefits to biking should be evident to us all. First and foremost, Austin says that a bike provides “mobility.” While our location might limit a person from walking very far, we can go three or four times as far by bike. Second is saving money. Car ownership typically costs 17% of a family’s income. Next comes a reduction in pollution. We all know that every time we get in and start up our car it is polluting our air—and yet, according to Austin, “nearly 1/2 of all trips are less than 2 miles.” That distance could easily be covered by bike. The next obvious benefit is better health. We’ve all read the numerous
stories that show our country is becoming more overweight and less healthy every year. Biking would go a long way to counteract that trend. Finally, Austin says that one of the best reasons to bike is that it increases happiness. Studies prove there is a strong correlation between happiness and the joy that comes from the freedom of being able to choose our own directions. He goes on to say that riding bikes turn, “a chore into an adventure,” and the best reason to do it is because, “you just enjoy it!”
Because Austin is so captivated by biking, he and his brother founded “88 Bikes” and have begun buying and delivering bikes to orphaned and disadvantaged children around the world. He calls his organization, ‘Joy-based Philanthropy.” And when people ask him what it’s about and why he does it, he asks them, “Tell me about your first bike?” That question alone is enough to remind us all of the feelings and empowerment we felt on our first bike. Plus, as Austin says, “The memory of a first bike binds us together around the world.” For more information on 88 Bikes and to get involved go to: http://88bikes.org
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.” ~John F. Kennedy
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” ~H.G. Wells