Women on Bikes

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

Some Thoughts on the LA Newspaper Group's Summer of Cycling

Dear Readers:
Below is an email I sent to the email address given for the ongoing conversation The Press Telegram and the entire Los Angeles Newspaper Group will be having this summer on bicycling:

I was very excited to find that The Press Telegram and the entire Los Angeles Newspaper Group was taking on this subject and am hoping for a series of articulate, well researched discussions and articles versus a project geared at stirring the pot for sensationalism but not coming to any better understanding.

Right now I have to admit I'm a bit dubious. The initial cartoon didn't help.

I am with Damien Newton of L.A.Streetsblog in hoping that you will move away from an us vs. them, car vs. bike approach.

Here are some things I'd like you to consider as you move forward:

  • Starting out the series with the term "cyclist" implies to many that you are focused on the lycra clad set. Research shows, including a survey I was personally involved in producing, that the majority of people who ride bikes do not tag themselves "cyclists," nor even "bicyclists" but "someone who likes to ride a bike."
  • The Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition is currently in the middle of hosting 30 "Traffic 101" adult bicycle education classes throughout Los Angeles County within September. Will you be attending any of these classes? They are happening throughout the region.
  • Here in Long Beach I have personally been involved in launching "Street Savvy" this summer, a short "hands on" bicycle education class originated by Bike Long Beach and further developed by female instructors in our Women on Bikes SoCal program. We have a class on July 21st and July 28th - I invite you to come a check one of them out. Yes, I will follow up with a press release.
  • Throughout Southern California there are knowledgeable, articulate, professional bike advocates that can bring much to this conversation that you really need to be reaching out to. I recommend you start with Jen Klausner, the Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coaltion. I'm happy to provide you with her information if you don't have it.
  • I also recommend that you come to Long Beach and take the City's "Three Hour" bicycle infrastructure tour with Bike Long Beach's Allan Crawford if you want to truly understand why bicycle infrastructure is so important - and I would hope that you will educate your readers that money spent on these types of projects CAN ONLY be spent on these types of projects.
We are living in a time of a sedentary disease pandemic and the cost to our state alone is crippling. Our youngest generation is not expected to live as long as their parents due to the effects of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Is it really a time to focus on fear rather than bringing understanding? I hope you can show true leadership and do better. Most people who ride bikes also own cars so the whole "I pay more taxes as a driver so I'm worth more" is not only offensive, but frankly, mute.

Best Regards,
Melissa Balmer - Editor/Program Director Women on Bikes SoCal