It’s a bummer that so much is written about the dangers of cycling and how to avoid getting killed on a bike.
Because riding a bike is one of the healthiest things you can possibly do.
Check out the top ten causes of death in the USA last year:
- Heart disease. Yep, cycling helps cure that.
- Cancer. No study has ever shown that cycling causes cancer. However, intense physical exertion in polluted environments is probably bad for you, at least until you tote up the cost of being inactive.
- Unintentional injuries. This includes cycling-related deaths, but guess what? The risk of dying on a bike is dwarfed the risk of dying in a car. This analysis sums it up nicely.
- Chronic lower respiratory disease. Cycling improves lung function.
- Stroke and cerebrovascular diseases. Cycling improves vascular health.
- Alzheimer’s disease. There are a couple of studies underway to see if cycling has a positive effect on Alzheimer’s, but so far there’s no evidence that cycling delays it or speeds it up.
- Diabetes. Cycling definitely ameliorates this.
- Influenza and pneumonia. Fit cyclists get sick less often, so maybe.
- Kidney disease. Exercise provides clear benefits to slowing the decline of kidney function.
- Suicide. Unsure, but a lot of people say they ride because it is mental/emotional therapy for them.
So why is all the focus on cycling deaths and injuries? One reason is that it seems gruesome, getting mashed up by a dump truck. Diabetes seems really genteel in comparison, as do all diseases where you simply waste away and die over a period of years.
Of course people who are doing the wasting will tell you that these chronic illnesses are horrible, but that’s beside the point when people are presented with the dump truck scenario.
Another reason it’s popular to talk about the dangers of cyclin is that talking about the dangers of cycling discourages people from cycling. American society doesn’t want YOU on a bike. If YOU start riding, you will drive less. If you drive less, you’ll contribute less to the structure we live in, which is built around driving.
That structure is financial, and it’s social, too. It’s a structure that separates white from black, rich from poor, healthy from sick, and it’s built on the individual separation that begins when you cram yourself into a little steel box. The structure is designed to keep you emotionally and financially enslaved to your car and to your position in society, i.e. running on a treadmill.
Anyway, at least for me, bicycling is safe and fun and exhilarating and economical. I think I’ll go ride mine now.
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