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Why Bike When You Can Drive?

We are blessed in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills with terrain and weather that are extraordinarily friendly to bicycling.  The flat streets of Los Altos favor bike trips by casual riders or those who are new to riding a two-wheeler.  Cyclists who want more of a challenge can spin through Los Altos Hills for a rollercoaster-thrill ride that gets their hearts and quads pumping.   From behind the handlebars of your bike, you can easily appreciate the charm of our neighborhoods, the friendly, small-town atmosphere of the flatlands, and the scenic beauty of the hills.

Pull up at an intersection next to someone on a bike, and you might engage in a conversation.  Ride past a family of bike riders or cycle by a dog-walker or front-yard gardener and you might just smile or say hello.  Bicycling is much more sociable than driving solo in a car.

When I hop on my bike to run a quick errand, I get a momentary boost of good cheer and I feel thankful for the physical ability to actually ride a bike.  On longer bike trips, I’m not distracted by the radio or telephone calls and can use my brain to generate ideas, work over problems, or just clear my mind.  The mental and physical health benefits abound!

In addition to all these terrific benefits, biking is much better for our local environment.  According to the 2010 Silicon Valley Environmental Index published by Sustainable Silicon Valley, 60% of the energy used in Santa Clara County was from gasoline and diesel.  The average resident annually burned 448 gallons of gasoline (in 2008).  The other striking bit of info from this report is that 40% of the trips we take are less than 2 miles.  What an opportunity for improvement!  If we could each just substitute one car trip per week with a bike trip or a walk to our nearby destination, imagine what we could do collectively.

These are some of the reasons why GreenTown Los Altos has decided to focus much of our resources on encouraging our residents to bike and walk more in 2011.  As Keith Turner, our Executive Director, reported in his blog post about our January community meeting, we had a lively discussion of ways to encourage biking and walking.  Look for a summary of some of these ideas in upcoming posts.  What are your ideas for how we can encourage biking and walking?

Karen “KJ” Janowski Chair, GreenTown Education Programs

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