Thursday, November 2, 2017

Cyclists over 60. Fastest growth of any Demographic

By Mark Cramer, retiree, cycling advocate, regular contributor to Freewheeling France 

22 percent of the net growth in U.S. bike trips from 1995-2009 is by people ages 60-79. Their biking quadrupled in those 14 years, the fastest growth of any demographic.

During the past 17 years I’ve been cycling on a regular basis. As I’ve aged (I’m 72 now), I have observed an increasing population of senior cyclers around me, especially in France, my home base.

Recently in Paris I presented a slide show on Cycling in Bolivia. The canyon city of La Paz, Bolivia, where I live for six weeks each year, is 12,000 feet above sea level, has no bike lanes and if you find a rare flat street, it’s never going where you need it to. Given the challenge of cycling in an area with sometimes many thousand foot variations in altitude, I expected a younger crowd to attend the presentation. Instead, the audience was comprised mainly of seniors. Mingling with them I learned that their retirements are enriched with adventurous bike trips around the world.

Derren Patterson works in Bolivia with Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking, famous for its bike tours over “the world’s most dangerous road”. He tells us: “we have observed a gradual increase in senior customers in recent years. Just a few weeks ago, two men in their 70s did various mountain trails with us.”

In my frequent interactions with senior cyclers I have noticed an increasing interest in a certain category of travel called “micro-adventures”. They will not cycle for a year from Alaska to Ushuaia, but they love trying something they’ve never done before, breaking routines and thus playing tricks with psychological time in order to expand their lives.

At talks I’ve given to cycling tourists in the Loire Valley, through International Bicycle Tours (IBT), I found the audiences comprised mainly of boomers, with one woman over 80! IBT’s Jules Miller explains that their “clients have consistently been about the same age, which is between 55-75. In the past couple of years, we have started 70 Plusser tours, aimed at participants age 70 and up, focusing on shorter daily biking. Instead of 25-35 miles a day, they do about 15-20 miles daily,” blending the cycling with river barge segments or cultural visits.

Dozens of tour companies like the above-mentioned offer fully-supported bicycle adventures with the sturdiest and most comfortable high-end bikes. Backpacks or panniers are not necessary since the customers’ belongings are carried in a pick-up truck.

If supported bike tours are “the new golf”, as numerous business publications have suggested, what about the increasing number of 60-plussers doing unsupported bicycle tourism? Could independent road cycling for seniors become the new cruise industry, with bike-friendly “ports” along the way?

I have accompanied seniors on unsupported touring, where we carry our own clothing and accessories (and medications!). We make our own maps as we go along, comparing our “found” routes with those of National Geography Institute contour maps or Google bicycle routes.

But when the sun sets after a long ride, we prefer a good restaurant and we’re not embarrassed to stay in a comfortable hotel or bed-and-breakfast instead of camping out. Stopping for activities along the way is not a problem for us since we view the bicycle as both an activity in itself and a means of vacation transportation. We do not have to wait until the next port to partake of local attractions.

I do not pretend to speak for a whole demographic, but I can say that several of my riding companions share a dream. We would like to see a road cycling infrastructure of rest-and-service stops, including restaurants, hotels and bike repair stations.

With the weight of our first-aid kits and the extra levels of packed clothing (we’re more sensitive to weather changes), we would prefer to carry the lightest possible bike locks, even with a lower grade of security, once assured of finding hotels, restaurants and attractions with protected parking.

According to bicycle sales rep, Keith Stark, from Western Canada: “Our dealer base has seen a significant spike in sales from business men and women who have made the transition from golf to biking” (Quote from, Jayson MacLean, “Golf is Dead. Cycling Killed It”, Cantech Letter, May 2017). Stark specializes in high-end bikes.

As one who has come out from a meeting in a wealthy Paris suburb only to find a sawed off bike lock (professional job) and empty space where my quality bicycle had been parked, I will be ready to purchase another high-end bike when I know I will find road and parking services for cyclists, just as automobile tourists have such services available.

The bicycle industry is in a position to be our advocate and to influence both public and private sectors to provide amenities for the growing demographic. Parts of France already have such cycling amenities, and they can be a model for things to come.

In a subsequent article I will present a new idea for long-term bicycle advocacy that will stimulate cycling in all age groups, but especially 60-plussers. The more bicycle tourists, the more security we will feel on the road.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Study proves that electric bike users are far from “cheating”


The University of Colorado Boulder study has buried the myth that electric bike users are “cheating”, demonstrating that riders do indeed get an “effective workout” and the associated health benefits associated with pedal powered bikes.

Published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, the findings lent weight to a decision on whether or not to allow electric bikes on bike paths in the city of Boulder, which partially funded the study alongside the National Institutes of Health. Pete’s Electric Bikes, Republic Cycles and nutrition label Skratch Labs also donated to the funding.

In delivering the study, researchers recruited a pool of twenty sedentary commuters, conducting tests of their overall health, blood glucose regulation and fitness. These commuters were then asked to shift their transport to work to the e-Bike fleet, using a speed and intensity setting of their choice for a minimum of 40 minutes three times per week. Each wore a heart monitor and GPS. READ MORE >>

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Obesity Will Soon Overtake Smoking as Principal Cause of Cancer

For decades, smoking was one of the leading causes of cancer, but that's about to change.

Obesity will likely claim the lead spot as the principal cause of 10 different types of cancer within the next decade. Cancer once seen as a disease of old age -- now increasingly being diagnosed up to to two decades earlier than in the past.

Fortunately, researchers are also starting to recognize the power of lifestyle changes over drug prescriptions. It's been well documented by experts that exercise was such a 'potent' force against cancer that it should be prescribed as part of disease treatment, and at the top of the list is CYCLING!

Recent studies continue to shed light on how everyday cycling is not only good for our cardiovascular health but also a way to save billions in health care costs. While everyday cycling is starting to be recognized as a low-impact form of exercise there remains resistance to accepting riding a bike as a form of preventive health care across North America.

Clearly, biking is advantageous for one’s physical health. It’s widely known that cycling is a low-impact form of exercise that’s good for the cardiovascular system, a way to control weight gain, and benefits our immune system. In addition, daily bicycling can have positive effects on our mental well-being.

In June 2013, the American Medical Association voted in favor of recognizing obesity as a disease; the Food and Drug Administration already does. This newly-labeled disease is predicted to affect more than 44 percent of all Americans by 2030 if no action is taken. Canada is not exempt from this health crisis: in 2010, Statistics Canada found that an average of 34 percent of individuals aged 60 to 69 were obese.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified the positive impact of making cities more bike-friendly: “integrating health-enhancing choices into transportation policy has the potential to save lives by preventing chronic diseases, reducing and preventing motor-vehicle-related injury and deaths, improving environmental health, while stimulating economic development, and ensuring access for all people.” The CDC also recognized that a lack of efficient transportation alternatives to driving and a fear of biking in heavy traffic only encouraged people to continue to drive all or most of the time.

In light of these findings, there remains resistance, mostly political, in accepting the benefits of daily bicycling as preventive health care. The Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act has set aside money for improving bicycling conditions through the Prevention and Public Health Fund. However, according to The Wall Street Journal, none of the 85 cities in the US that are actively installing better bicycle infrastructure (including protected bike lanes, trails, and bike share systems) have accessed these funds. Connecting bicycling to preventive health care in the US has yet to gain public acceptance and would draw resistance to these projects.

The silver lining is: there is growing acceptance of the Complete Streets movement. Complete Streets – or roadways that enable safe transportation for all road users – provide opportunities for increased, safe physical activity. Also, it’s been found that these streets are the most effective solution for encouraging daily physical activity. With 488 Complete Streets policies adopted in the US, the connection between health care and active transportation is gaining ground.

Providing bike riders with a safe and convenient way to commute every day should be seen as a form of preventive health care. With a safe network of bike routes, more North Americans can be encouraged to take to their bikes instead of their cars, which could very likely result in billions of health care dollars saved.


A study led by Dr. Thomas Götschi of the Institute of Social and Preventative Medicine at the University of Zurich examined the costs and benefits of bicycling in Portland, OR. Götschi’s findings are startling: “By 2040, investments [in everyday bicycling in the USA] in the range of $138 to $605 million will result in health care cost savings of $388 to $594 million (…) and savings in value of statistical lives of $7 to $12 billion.” Götschi’s study is the first cost-benefit analysis of investments in bicycling.

A study conducted by Jonathan Patz and Maggie Grabow of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and published in Environmental Health Perspectives looked to quantify the benefits of reduced car usage in 11 metropolitan areas in the upper Midwestern United States. The study found that replacing short car trips with biking could net health benefits of $4.94 billion per year in the study area. Mortality could also decline by roughly 1,000 per year due to increased fitness levels and improved air quality.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Bicycle and the Ride to Modern America

Susan B. Anthony said, "cycling did more to emancipate women than anything else in the world."

By Natalie Angier, July 13, 2015

On May 10, 1884, midway through his 48th year, Samuel L. Clemens reluctantly “confessed to age” by wearing glasses for the first time. That same day, the celebrated writer better known as Mark Twain sought to reclaim his youth by mounting a bicycle for the first time.

Only one of these first tries succeeded. “The spectacles,” Twain later recalled, “stayed on.”

Bodily contusions notwithstanding, Twain promoted the new sport of cycling with characteristic rhubarb tartness. “Get a bicycle,” he urged readers. “You will not regret it, if you live.”

Over the next decade, millions of Americans of all ages, trades and visual acuities would heed the pedaler’s cry. They would not only live, but would learn to stay majestically, propulsively upright, too. They would start cycling clubs, collect cycling paraphernalia, compose cycling songs, silk-screen cycling art, overhaul female fashion and rewrite the rules of social conduct.

The end-of-the-century bicycle craze also greased the gears of industrial genius, as manufacturers here and abroad scrambled to devise new ways to speed up and standardize production, to lighten the bicycle frame without compromising its strength, and to make the ride cushier through the addition of a radical new invention, the pneumatic tire.

The full-bore bicycle fever was brief, and by the early 20th century it had given way to fascination with the automobile. Yet, as a new exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History makes clear, the impact of the bicycle on the nation’s industrial, cultural, emotional and even moral landscape has been deep and long lasting.

In addition to air-filled rubber tires, we can thank the bicycle for essential technologies like ball bearings, originally devised to reduce friction in the bicycle’s axle and steering column; for wire spokes and wire spinning generally; for differential gears that allow connected wheels to spin at different speeds.

An 1890s portrait showing a bicycle not all that different from what is being ridden today.

And where would our airplanes, tent poles and lawn furniture be without the metal tubing developed to serve as the bicycle frame? “The hollow steel tube is a great form,” said Jim Papadopoulos, an assistant teaching professor of mechanical and industrial engineering at Northeastern University in Boston. “It’s tremendously structurally efficient, light and strong, and it came into being for the bicycle.”

Bicycles also gave birth to our national highway system, as cyclists outside major cities grew weary of rutted mud paths and began lobbying for the construction of paved roads. The car connection goes further still: Many of the bicycle repair shops that sprang up to service the wheeling masses were later converted to automobile filling stations, and a number of pioneers in the auto industry, including Henry Ford and Charles Duryea, started out as bicycle mechanics. So, too, did the Wright brothers.

"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." 
 -- Albert Einstein

“The pre-story is so important,” said Eric S. Hintz, a historian with the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. “You don’t get automobiles unless you first have bikes.”

David Hounshell, the author of “From the American System to Mass Production: 1800-1932,” described the bicycle as “one of the classic artifacts of industrial civilization,” adding that “it still prevails, and there are billions of them around the world. It’s a universal technology.”

The bicycle has pride of place at the Smithsonian as part of a larger interactive exhibit called Object Project, which features everyday objects that we often take for granted, including refrigerators, ready-made clothing and home heating systems.

The Depression-era refrigerator on display looks like a kitschy Hollywood prop, and the hulking proto-bike called the high wheeler — with its 60-inch front wheel and little cellular bud of a rear balancing wheel — looks strictly Barnum & Bailey. Intriguingly, though, an early “safety bike” of the collection, from 1896, looks almost contemporary and fit for a spin.

Its wheels are of equal, hip-high size and girdled in natty white rubber, and its pedals are attached at the bottom of the seat column to a toothed crank that turns a chain that turns the rear wheel, while the steering column rises up from the axle of the front wheel — all just as they are on today’s bicycles.

The evolution of the bicycle was long, complex and multinational, and spattered with squabbles over provenance and patent rights.

Early versions like the high wheeler, in which the pedals were attached directly to the large front wheel, were clumsy, heavy, difficult to ride, easy to topple and expensive. Few beyond rich young men made a sport of them.

But with the advent of the crank, sprocket and chain system, small rotational movements of the pedals could be translated into large rotations of the rear wheel, and in the late 1880s, the safety bicycle was born — safer than the shake-and-break high rollers, that is, and possibly one of the most perfect machines the world has ever known.

A woman's bicycle in 1896. By the mid-1890s, some 300 American companies were churning out well over a million bikes a year. Credit National Museum of American History.

“I have a deep question about the bicycle,” said Andy Ruina, a professor of mechanical engineering at Cornell University who studies bicycle dynamics. “Was the bicycle invented or discovered? It’s such a pure concept, it seems like it existed in the universe even before people thought of it, like the wheel itself, or a prime number.”

The bicycle certainly is among the purest means of transportation. It’s roughly 50 times more energy-efficient than driving and four times more efficient than walking.

If you push one on level ground at a fast enough clip, it will just keep going, balancing itself en route just as a bike rider does. When it starts to fall to the left, it automatically steers to the left; when it leans right, it self-corrects by turning right.

Learning to ride a bicycle, then, may be less a matter of taking charge than of letting go, of suppressing the impulse to overcorrect the bicycle’s inherently stable momentum.

By the mid-1890s, some 300 American companies were churning out well over a million bicycles a year, making the safety bike one of the first mass-produced items in history. Among the most exuberant customers were women, who discovered in the bicycle a sense of freedom they had rarely experienced before.

The bicycle helped change fashions and social conduct, while paving the way for the airplane and the automobile. Credit National Museum of American History

Bicycles also seem to have minds of their own. Though often mistakenly considered inherently unstable, bikes can balance themselves. “It’s called ghost riding,” Dr. Ruina said. “We don’t really understand why, but all bicycles are close to stable.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Downtown Dublin Is Getting Rid Of Cars

A city known for some of the world's worst traffic jams is getting a radical pedestrian makeover.

by Adele Peters staff writer at Co.Exist who focuses on sustainable design. 

Dublin ranks just under Los Angeles for having some of the worst traffic jams in the world. The problem is predicted to get worse as the city quickly grows—somehow, it will have to squeeze in 20% more commuters over the next decade. That's why the city is now deciding to make a radical shift: It wants to ban cars from several major downtown streets.

Right now, pedestrians don’t have it easy. "Dublin has a compact city center, but we don't give enough priority to pedestrians or cyclists," says Ciarán Cuffe, chair of the city council's transport committee. "All too often those who walk are left waiting at crossings while cars whizz past for minutes on end."

In the proposed plan, the city wants to route cars around the city center, and turn major streets into car-free plazas and passages for buses, bikes, pedestrians, and a new tram line. Along the banks of the River Liffey, polluted roads will become promenades. On Grafton Street, a former car lane will turn into a tree-shaded terrace with cafe tables, while the other lane has tram tracks. New bike lanes and wider sidewalks will be added as well.

All of this still needs to pass public approval, but the city expects that to happen. The changes will come gradually. "Dublin won't become car-free tomorrow, but as we improve our light rail network there are fantastic opportunities to create car-free areas where you can breathe, think, and hear yourself speak," Cuffe says. "Dubliners are very receptive to this. The true test of a civilized city is whether you can let go your child's hand and allow them to explore the city by themselves. That is our ultimate goal."

Dublin is already spending about $420 million on a new network of tram lines throughout the city, and plans to spend another $170 million to pedestrianize the downtown streets.

It's helped by the fact that demographics are changing. As in most other major cities, more millennials want to live in the city center. Over the last decade, cycling rates more than doubled, while car use dropped 17%. The city now has a popular bike-sharing program and ride-sharing apps like Hailo and Uber. A car-sharing company called GoCar offers cars by the hour.

As streets transform, the city expects more people to be drawn to the area. "These change will improve the city center and revive the heart of the city," says Cuffe. "Ireland and Dublin's economy have improved in recent years but it has been a fragile recovery. Making the city center more livable, walkable, and cyclable should be good for businesses, residents and tourists."

Cars are unlikely to completely go away in Dublin—or at least not anytime soon. But the plan aims to cut daily car commutes from 33% to 20% in only two years, while increasing public transit, walking, and biking.

The same thing is happening in several other cities, like Paris, where the mayor recently unveiled a plan to turn a highway into a riverside park, and where the city center is also starting to ban cars. Madrid, Brussels, and several other European cities have similar plans. While there are some isolated examples elsewhere—like new pedestrian plazas in Manhattan—it will be interesting to see if larger car-free networks begin to pop up in the U.S.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Why cycletrack networks should be the next great American transit project

U.S. cities are already seeing the impact of when cyclists are given a separated place to ride. The National Institute for Transportation and Communities looked at bike traffic on nine U.S. roads after cycletracks were added. Across the board bike traffic grew, ranging from 21 to 171 percent. 

The economic benefits are also being felt by many businesses, who were skeptical in the beginning to adding separated roadways just for bikes. READ >>

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sitting Is the New Smoking...

Research found that those who sit the most have a 50 percent greater risk of all-cause mortality—in fact, chronic sitting has a mortality rate similar to smoking, increasing your rate of lung cancer by more than 50 percent! Risk for uterine and colon cancer also increases by 66 and 30 percent respectively. 

The reason for this increased cancer risk is thought to be linked to biochemical changes that occur when you sit, such as alterations in hormones, metabolic dysfunction, leptin dysfunction, and inflammation—all of which promote cancer. Your risk for anxiety and depression also rises right along with hours spent in your chair.

Part of the reason why all of this may seem so surprising is that we've become so accustomed to sitting in chairs that we've failed to realize that doing so might be seriously problematic. The cause and effect are quite clear. And so is the remedy.

In short, exercise is one of the “golden tickets” to preventing disease and slowing the aging process. Besides helping you regain your insulin and leptin sensitivity, which is the root of most chronic disease, if you make the wise decision to engage in some intense exercise a couple of times a week, you’ll also boost your body's natural production of human growth hormone (HGH)—a biochemical often referred to as “the fitness hormone” for its invigorating, age-defying effects. 

 It not only promotes muscle growth and effectively burns excessive fat; it also plays an important part in promoting longevity. READ FULL ARTICLE >>