Musings on Bicycling and Buddhism

Monday, July 16, 2012

Shouting for Humanism

This comes to mind in regard to a few articles:
Boston based cyclist blogger on cycling in suburbs:
Video interview with London mayor on the cycling in London:
Report by British Medical Association on transit:

One thing becomes abundantly clear - there are people shouting for humanism, and it's happening to the tune of bicycles.


As one proceeds to listen to the interview with London mayor, Mr. Boris Johnson, one hears him speak about the future of cities.  The Economist, and others reported this spring that for the first time in human history, more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas. And this is expected to increase in the coming decades.  We'll be stacked nearer each other than we have ever been.

To paraphrase some history: It's been the trend for many a decade to put industry and economics first when planning any sort of domestic policy for building projects and civic development.  So much so that for a long time cities were dying, at the time of the rise of the suburb.    But as the times change we are seeing a different sort of cry.

The British Medical Association (BMA) published a report (over 100 pages!) on how national policies have hurt the health of the nation - particularly in regards to transit policies.  The physicians argue that the vast majority of policy decisions have been made for the benefit of the automotive industry, and at the cost of the nation's health.  They said something similar back in 1997 and nobody listened, and yet somehow the same problems still exist, and in many cases have been exacerbated.

The UK, as well as the United States, has been undergoing intense debates over the exorbitant cost of health care.  The UK's system has historically been more "socialist" or "universal" (pick your description based on your ideology~) than that of the United States, and the government has been seeing the rising costs put to the national treasury in a very serious way for quite some time now.  The BMA posits that making civic decisions based on the health of the nation as first concern is the only way to proceed.

In the interview with Mr. Johnson, we see him making the point that cities must be more mindful of their occupants and design "villages" within a city.  Clean, green, and enjoyable public spaces must become the to-go logic.  Local Massachusetts based blogger IsolateCyclist asks for common sense in the suburbs.

What we see coming from these places, on both sides of the Atlantic, this cry to pay attention to the future.  There are entire movements devoted to this, such as the Boston area's own Liveable Streets.


One way to look at all this is a shift in ideology.  Rather than bigger is better, faster is better, industry wins - we see a shift in concern in toward the human being.  Let's bike to be healthier, let's make decisions to benefit people's daily lives, let's make beautiful cities.  Human beings as primary concern instead of economic afterthought.

And one great way to achieve all this is with bicycles.  Who would have ever thought?

And check it out - making humanistic decisions can be economical too:

"Active forms of transport, such as cycling and walking, are highly cost effective forms of transport. To the individual, walking has few costs associated with it, while the costs associated with cycling are minimal compared to those of motorised transportation. Active travel contributes savings to healthcare budgets, in terms of savings on treating chronic illness. Transport-related physical inactivity in England is estimated to cost £9.8 billion per year to the economy. This figure is in addition to the £2.5 billion in healthcare costs spent annually on treating obesity. "A 2007 Cycling England report that estimated the economic value of cycling, found that the health benefits could be valued at £87-300 per cyclist per year, depending on their age, fitness level, and neighbourhood. This did not account for the substantial social benefits of cycling, which include offering more independence to children, improving the quality of life for communities and, in some areas, supporting tourism. "A 50 per cent increase [in cycling] could lead to health savings of £1.3 billion…All [international] studies reported highly significant economic benefits of walking and cycling interventions. The median result for all data identified was a benefit to cost ratio of 13:1 and for the UK, the figure was higher at 19:1." -from the BMA article

So perhaps, by making humanism the common sense of the nation, our economies can prosper as well.  I may not live long enough to see the long term effects of all this, but I certainly would love to hear more folks joining in on this chorus of humanism.

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Tour de What You Will by Jessie Calkins is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License