Once again Dad and I were stuck in a traffic jam. The trip from our house to the library usually takes five minutes, but this time we found ourselves sitting in the midst of a river of cars that crawled ahead a few feet at a time. Up ahead, we saw that three lanes were merging into one. Two cars had collided in a fender-bender, and not only that, but they had done so in a work zone where one lane was already closed. As I watched pedestrians on the sidewalk leave us behind, I complained, “I could almost have walked to the library faster than this. I certainly could have biked there much faster.” That was when it occurred to me: If more people rode bicycles instead of driving cars, they would save money, be healthier, and contribute to cleaner air.
In the United States, many people ride bicycles as recreation. On any weekend, the country roads outside my town are dappled with helmeted riders in yellow and blue and green jerseys. However, only 2 percent of Americans commute by bike, and that figure includes students. In contrast, almost 20 percent of Japanese students and almost 10 percent of Japanese workers commute by bike (Survey: Commuting, http://www.japan-guide.com/topic/0011.html). In Holland, there are more bicycles than cars, according to the Wall Street Journal online (http://users2.wsj.com/lmda/do/checkLogin?mg=evo-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle_print%2FSB116010158918484570.html). There are many benefits, so why don't Americans think of their bicycles as vehicles of transportation, instead of just as exercise machines?
First, bicycling saves the rider a great deal of money. To commute by bike, a person needs to spend only a few hundred dollars (or less) on a bicycle, plus occasional small amounts for minor repairs such as fixing flat tires. A car is a huge expense by comparison. The typical driver spends thousands of dollars per year on the combined costs of monthly car payments, insurance, maintenance, repairs, gasoline, and...
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