Joe GransingerThursday,31 January 2013

The Snap:

Gas prices have once again been on the rise over the past couple weeks, and that encourages people to use alternative methods of transportation. In some parts of the country, walking/biking year round isn’t an issue, but in colder areas of the nation, you’re bound to turn some heads. A company in Toronto is actually paying their employees more if they bike to work instead of drive, an idea that I hope spreads to the U.S. soon.

The Download:

Working within a short distance from home is a perk than many Americans don’t have, especially in rural areas of the country. However, people have become so accustomed to jumping in their vehicles to travel – no matter how far the distance – that we are getting incredibly low amounts of exercise. Matt Healey recently pointed out just how fat we are, and how the ‘system’ is fixed against us compared to other countries. But then again, the majority of Americans aren’t very interested in helping themselves be healthier, so it’s hard to blame the system.

I’m fortunate enough to have an apartment in a fairly urban part of the city, so I can walk to just about anywhere I need to go. I have a car, but I don’t like to use it when I don’t have to. In the summer, I almost never drive it since I can bike to work, the grocery store, the beach, etc. – and quite frankly, I just enjoy biking. In the winter, however, I’m seen as some poor, crazy, down-on-my-luck, car-less bum who is forced to endure the entire quarter-mile journey to the grocery store in the chilly 35-degree weather. Poor me!

I’m definitely not a fanatic about neglecting my car, and if the temperature gets below 20 degrees, I’m not going anywhere if I can’t drive, but c’mon America! I do appreciate your generosity when you slow down next to me and yell, “Do you need a ride?” out the window – which happens on a daily basis – but please stop. Not everyone that’s walking is forced to do so, and I don’t think that being car-less is something that should be pitied.

At my previous job, I worked roughly three miles away from my home. That amounted to 11 minutes of travel time by car, compared to the 16 minutes of travel time by bike. The only adjustment I made was to leave five minutes earlier to commute by bike, and it really paid off. I recommend everyone tries this little test if possible, as it’s also pretty kick-ass to start your morning with exercise and fresh air.

The social perception that everyone needs a car to survive is only adding to the obesity problem we already have, and it’s a very simple fix. When 70% of car trips in America are shorter than two miles, we need to start evaluating the small changes in our lifestyle that can help us be healthier. So the next time you really want that double cheeseburger from the McDonald’s down the street, maybe you should walk there to get it.

Here’s a nifty infographic that I’m 90% sure is strongly biased, but is interesting nevertheless.

Hat Tips:

FastCoDesign, TheRecord, Image Credit: Flickr

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