In 1817, the first bicycle was invented. Since then, it has undergone multiple drastic changes over the years. Once the safety bicycle—the basic template nearly all modern bicycles are built off of—was invented, it diverged into road bikes and mountain bikes. However, it was quickly overtaken by the car since that was faster and more convenient. Now, it is mostly used as a mode of recreation. It is, nevertheless, an underrated mode of transportation; its cheap short distance convenience and relatively low need for infrastructure makes it perfect for use in places in which other mechanized transportation is inconvenient or impossible. It is not, however, limited to such places, and in many cases, the benefits of using a bike outweigh the downsides.
The bicycle’s lack of fuel requirements, along with its size, makes it a much more versatile mode of transportation than nearly any other. They don’t drip oil or hydraulic fluids and they produce no significant pollution. The previous points notwithstanding, it’s easier to find space to lock one’s bike, especially in crowded cities. Bikes also reduce road wear, saving tax dollars for more productive things. And if one can’t use a car, or has to go farther than normal bikes allow, electric bicycles are an option. They are more expensive than bikes, but still much less expensive than cars. If one can’t qualify for a driver’s license, and it’s hard to get places easily, bikes are a more direct way to get where one is going than public transportation, and electric bikes extend the effective range even farther. They can even be used in conjunction with buses since they can carry bicycles. If one lives in a dense city, where congestion and traffic are common, bikes can be faster than cars, and even if one doesn’t, they can be just as fast as cars in distances under 5 miles. However, the need for long-distance transportation exists and is something that bikes are less well suited to. Even so, in situations where the distance isn’t too far, electric bicycles cost little to charge. Further, the family car costs $1.26 per mile to operate (Cycling Benefits). The estimated cost of congestion is $305 billion in the U.S. Biking reduces congestion since it doesn’t add any cars. If one lives under conditions that make it undesirable to bike long distances, using a bike for the close-range situations still brings many of the benefits associated with it.
Cycling is a very good form of exercise, it uses all of the major leg muscle groups with one pedal, as well as being an easy to learn form of exercise. Biking increases cardiovascular fitness, stamina, and can improve navigational skills, as well as handling and spatial awareness. To add to that, the intensity of exercise while biking is nearly entirely self-directed, and it improves strength, balance, and coordination. Riding a bike regularly can reduce mental health conditions like depression, stress, and anxiety; plus, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and cycling for more than 30 minutes per day decreases the risk of developing diabetes by 40%. Moreover, a study by the University of Glasgow found that cycling to work can cut a rider’s risk of developing heart disease or cancer in half (Cycling - Health Benefits). The exercise also improves sleep. Health professionals recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day, and bicycling is a good way to incorporate that into one’s day, even if it’s broken up into 10-minute segments. Contradictory to what one might normally think, bikers are exposed to 1/5th of the air pollution when on the roads.
Bicycles have their niche, and right now, cars and public transportation are filling it—not very well either—which is leading to undesirable consequences. Using bicycles for short-distance city travel is much more efficient and sometimes more convenient—not to mention the various health improvements gained from biking than using cars or public transportation. Used properly, a bike can improve both physical and mental health, mitigate pollution, and lower transportation costs without great consequence against time and speed. The perceived convenience of cars is not worth the downsides.