Bikeable Communities

Why Bikeability & Walkability Matter to Our Well Being

I recently spent a week down in beautiful San Diego. This wasn’t just any old trip; this was the trip when I finalized my plans to move to “America’s Finest City.” Many things attracted me to San Diego: urban environment right on the water (best of both worlds for me), sattvic vibe, the people. Right at the top of the list is their commitment to active living, encouraging walking/biking through infrastructure and various programs. I see big things coming in this area from San Diego.

As a wellness professional, this is huge for me. We were built to move our bodies. However, in our current society we sit so much they have now coined the term “Sitting Disease” to describe a sedentary lifestyle, which makes sense given it is associated with all of the top causes of death. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is now the fourth leading risk factor for death globally. Incorporating movement into daily activities and errands (i.e., quick trip to the store, meeting friends at a café, happy hour, the kids’ music lessons, little league or soccer games) is a big step in the right direction and takes the pressure off of fitting in a big workout. A great way to do this is to ride your bike on these short trips!

In 2009 the U.S. Department of Transportation released a study advising that about 40% of U.S. daily car trips are actually under two miles and 45% of our trips are for shopping and errands, 27 for recreation, and only 15% for commuting. While two miles might seem daunting to the novice bike rider consider the fact that it will only take you about twenty minutes at an easy pace to cover that distance.

To make biking easier and more attractive, both the City of San Diego and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) passed updates to their bicycle plans last fall. This translates to additional bike lanes and infrastructure within the city and throughout the county. Plus, San Diego residents renewed a half-cent sales tax to be used for transportation initiatives fostering active living. These types of projects typically rely on Federal or State money. Allocating local money specifically to these initiatives illustrates their commitment to increasing walking and biking within the community. Besides the fact that this means less time sitting in a car, I truly believe cities that support active living increase community ties and feel more connected. That’s exactly what I’m looking for in my new home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been spoiled living near The Strand. For example, I took this photo biking home from a day with friends:

It makes me smile every time. But when something feels right in your soul, like everything is falling into place and aligning with what’s true to your heart, you need to listen and embrace it. That’s what moving to San Diego is for me.

Over the years, I’ve moved around a bit (Minneapolis, various parts of Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City) and have always tried to live in areas where I could walk to different places. Not only is it great for the mind and body to get outside and move, it also creates a more vibrant community. Who doesn’t want that? As I was determining my wish list for this move, I realized that for the first time I was considering bikeability.

On my last trip down to San Diego, a friend drove me around to different neighborhoods and I found myself saying over and over: “as long as I can walk or bike to the water,” “I want to be able to walk or bike to the farmers market,” “can I walk or bike to the grocery store?” When I’d look at apartment listings, bike storage was top of mind. See a pattern?

I’m happy to say, I found a place that meets all of the above and then some. I can walk and bike to many shops, restaurants, cafes…you name it! The new Jimbo’s…Naturally!? Done. I have TWO farmers markets I can easily walk or bike to each weekend: Little Italy Mercato and The Headquarter’s Sunday Farmers Market at Seaport Village, which recently opened. I can even easily walk/bike to Petco Park to catch a baseball game or one of the other fun events they host! While I won’t be living by the beach, I can bike to it. Plus, living by the harbor means water view walks, runs and bike rides will still be prevalent in my life, as well as breathtaking sunsets. As San Diego continues to increase its pedestrian and bike friendliness, who knows where the path will take me. All I know is that I can’t wait to explore my new city by bike (and on foot)!

Learn more about the benefits of biking for short trips on Kimberly's "Mindfulness + the Bike" segment on our July Pedal Love podcast. Click here for the page that links to the podcast.

About Kimberly Alexander

Kimberly  loves being part of the Active Living conversation. As a lifestyle and wellness coach, yogi, and marketing strategist, Kimberly strives to help people create their ultimate lives. Looking at various elements that contribute to a person’s overall well-being, she firmly believes active living touches multiple areas and can play a huge role in wellness. Plus, it supports sustainability and this beautiful Earth we inhabit, another of Kimberly’s passions.

Hailing from the Land of 10,000 Lakes, where she grew up walking, running and biking around the neighborhood and beyond, Kimberly recently got back on her bike and looks forward to new adventures by bike. You can also listen to Kimberly's "Mindfulness + the Bike" segment

November 2011

Photo: Matt Fukushima

We start out of the gate this month with Long Beach's engaging Vice Mayor Suja Lowenthal on our cover in a beautiful photo by Allan Crawford. Suja has been one of our the key political cheerleaders for the bike-friendly movement in Long Beach, and one of the first women we asked for support from as we begn putting "Women on Bikes" together. We are proud to have her as one of our key spokes-people.

A native of India, Suja spent her first seven years immersed in a culture where the bike is still a major form of transportation for millions of people. She has vivid and visceral memories of being ridden to school every morning by her Father on his bike, and we'll be sharing those memories here via video very soon. A very busy single mom, business woman and politician, Suja is a "dress for the destination" bicyclist who avidly wears a helmet while riding - but guess what? She may be dressed in heels too! And she wants women and girls to feel just fine with whatever level of riding a bike feels comfortable for them, perhaps it's commuting to school, perhaps it's enjoying rides on the weekend with their families on a beach bike path.

We're beginning Women on Bikes SoCal locally from a home-base in Long Beach California where both the City and its residents are making profound inroads into creating a compelling and attractive bike culture, but we're thinking regionally and globally as well. How do we support a movement and inspire others to join? How can we support the advocates already on the ground doing such great work such as the Los Angeles Bicycle Coalition and our sponsor Bikeable Communities, yet also engage a whole new audience who have not yet considered bike advocacy before? How can we be both meaningful and enjoyable to participate in?

For me personally, as a writer and an editor, it always goes back to the caliber of the story telling. I am always looking for the stories of individuals to inspire me. You will find a myriad of personal stories here at WoBSoCal from a variety of angles and interests.

When I was toying with the idea of riding a bike again two years ago I was worried that I was simply too frail and out of shape (you can read more about that here), but still I was intrigued. I loved riding a bike as a child and really wanted to do it again. I'm happy to say I had friends who encouraged me to try. Since then I've been inspired daily by the dynamic and organic bicycling culture here in my hometown. Living as I do close to the downtown area, I can stand on my street corner and watch a fascinating array of people ride by on bikes everyday - many of them women.  I've also been profoundly inspired by the Cycle Chic phenomenon from Copenhagen and the world wide movement of beautiful and engaging female-focused bike blogs that have sprouted up because of Mikhael's groundbreaking story telling and compelling imagery of women and families "dressing for their daily lives, not their bicycle commute." It's an "aha" idea that's taking the world by storm. Won't you join in?

Melissa Balmer