10 Reasons Why Bikes are Good for Global Health

1.    Lots of places in the world have problems with obesity. The U.S. actually does the worse, where 34% of adults over the age of 20 are obese. The bike is an anti-obesity transportation machine. In a study looking at 14 countries, all 50 states, and 47 of the largest US cities, places with more bike commuters had less obesity.

2.    In the U.S. cities and states where more people commute by bike, there is less diabetes. (From the same study as above. For the same reasons. It’s good for the body to move around.)

3.     In much of the developing world, community health workers provide important health care and health education. They travel from home-to-home in remote villages, doing everything from delivering babies to putting up mosquito nets to educating families about clean water. How do these community health workers get around? Bikes are often their very best option.  In fact, programs that equip health workers in places like Kenya with bikes allow them to care for more people. Bicycles are a great solution for delivering health care to some of the most remote parts of the world.

4.     Bicycles can serve as ambulances in places where there are no other ways to get to the hospital. Bicycles save lives when a pregnant woman has obstructed labor or someone has been in a serious accident. Those same programs helping to equip the community health workers are often setting up bicycle ambulances as well.

5.     In low- and middle-income countries, bicycles are the main way to transport people and goods. More transportation means more commerce and economic growth. A bicycle taxi can be a great business in a place where business opportunities are scarce.

6.     Bicycles promote equality. In poor places like India, women and girls are often the ones who shoulder the weight of farming and chores and walking to get water. Bicycles can make these things easier. Bicycles means more time in school. More time in school means that girls will delay child-bearing, have healthier families, contribute more to the economy, and otherwise bring about better change in the world.

7.     You could live a longer, healthier life if you just biked to the store. From NPR:

If the Midwesterners ran half of their short-distance errands by bike rather than by car, 1,100 deaths would be avoided each year, and $7 billion would be saved in reduced health-care costs. The trips were 2.5 miles one way; less than a 25-minute bike ride, the researchers figure.

8.    When a group of teenagers in Kenya wanted to create their One minute to save the world, they turned to their bikes. Adolescents from the Kenyan slums accurately saw bikes as a way to improve their health and protect the environment. “It’s good for my health, because I need to exercise, it doesn’t need any gas, just my feet and my eyes.” Watch the great “Me and My Bike” from Kenya.

9.    And then there’s the opportunity for bike nudity. Every year, more than 50 cities around the world hold World Naked Bike Ride events. In 2010 in Portland, 11,000 people biked naked! Surely global nudity on bikes improves the world’s health? (OK, you can wear clothes, promote biking, and still improve global health. But I had to throw this in.)

10.    Riding a bike makes you smile. This one isn’t scientifically proven, but I’m going to offer my expert opinion. Even if you don’t pay attention to the fact that you are saving money, reducing pollution, burning fat, and doing something good for your heart by riding a bike, the bike will make you smile. You have to pay attention to your surroundings and to the weather. You will notice little things around you. And you will feel like a kid pulling out from your driveway to go exploring.




Category: global health


About The Author - Rachel Vreeman


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