Bike Week raises awareness for travelers on two wheels
Santa Fe’s annual Bike Week started Saturday, with smooth riding expected through May 19.
It’s a week of raising awareness about bike safety, the benefits of biking and an opportunity to take stock of where we are when it comes to making biking a safer, accessible option. The celebration of two-wheel traveling ends with the 34th annual Santa Fe Century, the first major cycling event in the spring for the Southwest. This popular event offers 25-, 50- and 100-mile rides, as well as fun at the starting point, Santa Fe Community College (for more about events all week, visit www.santafebikeweek.com).
Cycling, as we all know, adds to the health of the community and reduces auto congestion on the roads. When more people ride their bicycles to go to work, school or run errands, we all benefit. The cyclists, because they are getting a workout. The rest of us, because roads are less crowded with cars or trucks and we breathe cleaner air. That’s why it is in everyone’s best interest to promote cycling as an alternative to motorized travel.
It’s obvious that bicycles do not emit carbon monoxide, as cars or trucks do. Biking reduces emissions, that’s clear. The University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center has found that 80 percent of the carbon monoxide in the atmosphere is a result of motorized vehicles that operate on gas and diesel. Those same sources also contribute 55 percent of the nitrogen oxide pollution in the air. Bikes, on the other hand, emit zero pollutants.
But there are other ways cycling is good for the community, ones that are less readily apparent. For one thing, people who use bicycles for short trips tend to shop near their house — and that means they support local businesses, keeping dollars in the community. Short trips also emit more pollutants; UNC found that people who park their cars for trips under four miles would save 15 pounds of pollution a year. That’s where bikes really can come in handy.
There’s more, too. Making a bicycle takes fewer resources than making a car, and bikes take less room to park. If more people used bicycles, there would be less need for parking and parking lots. Because bikes require less space, there’s no need to remove trees and plants to lay down asphalt for big, barren lots — and with nature intact, there will be fewer heat islands created.
Of course, whatever the health and environmental benefits of cycling, no one wants to take to the streets when they are unsafe. That’s why improving trails, raising awareness and continually reminding auto and truck drivers to watch out for cyclists (and vice versa) is so essential.
During Bike Week, we can enjoy fun events while learning about what Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico are doing to enhance safety and trails, improving road conditions for travelers of all sorts.