Opinion

One key to beating record gas prices: more biking | Opinion

The Philly region is rich in bike trails, but we need to close the gaps and make it a viable transportation option for everyone.

The Schuylkill River Boardwalk is part of the East Coast Greenway, a bike route that stretches from Maine to Florida

The Schuylkill River Boardwalk is part of the East Coast Greenway, a bike route that stretches from Maine to Florida

East Coast Greenway Alliance
eastcoastgreenway-dennis

Record economic growth and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have sent prices at the gas pump higher than ever. Is there anything we can do other than pay 50% more than last year?

Yes. Economics is not a spectator sport. We can stand up to higher gas prices by lowering our demand and biking our way to lower costs and higher quality of life.

There is a ton of potential. Only 13% of U.S. trips are by bike or by foot, compared to 25% to 50% in much of Europe. And half of trips in this country are under 4 miles. If we replaced just one in five of those shorter car trips with bike rides and walks to school, work, errands and recreation — that could mitigate the price increase. Reducing demand could also enable us to help defend democracy in Ukraine by banning imports of Russian oil without worrying that higher costs would result.

Helping people make the switch from cars to bikes is part of what we do at the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the nonprofit spearheading the completion of what just became the most visited park in the country, the 3,000-mile Maine to Florida East Coast Greenway.

Folks can visit greenway.org to see if you live along the path and can integrate it and other Circuit Trails into your everyday life. You can also reach out to your local bike shop or regional biking club full of people who want to help you join the movement.

In this region, we have a major event coming up: join the ride from New York City to Philadelphia on May 14-15 to help show biking isn’t just child’s play — it’s a means of transportation that can get you all over your community, let alone from city to city.

We need the bike boom of the last two years to pale in comparison to a transformational shift this year. It can help us lower our costs, work for peace, get healthier, tackle the climate crisis and enjoy the outdoors.

The biggest challenge to increasing biking in our country is the lack of safe routes from homes to workplaces, schools and other destinations.

That’s why our nonprofit is working to drive more public investment in safe biking and walking infrastructure, from sidewalks and bike lanes to multi-use greenways. Greater Philadelphia has hundreds of miles of greenways from the Schuylkill River Trail to the D&R and D&L canal tow paths. But there are gaps in the network, and biking and walking routes are only as good as their weakest links.

Investing in completing the East Coast Greenway in Greater Philadelphia could have a tenfold return of more than $3 billion in health, environmental and economic benefits, per a recent study. So please join us in calling on local, state and federal leaders to fund this and other key routes in our communities.

My family of five saves thousands of dollars per year by biking and walking to soccer practice, work, restaurants and more. We have the power to stand up to higher gas prices by lowering our demand. Meanwhile, we’ll be lending a hand at this critical moment for the people of Ukraine and for democracy and rule of law worldwide.

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