Screenshot from The Invisible Epidemic -

Can bikes help with the invisible epidemic?

The Invisible Epidemic

I read a neat visually-interactive piece from the Pudding, called "24 hours in an invisible epidemic."

Alvin Chang parses the American Time Use Survey to study feelings of loneliness and how people spend their time.  He follows and visualizes the story of one person, and of many simultaneously throughout an entire day:

Screenshot from The Invisible Epidemic -

One of the interesting and sad trends in the data is that the amount of time that Americans spend with other people has been declining for decades - with family and with friends. This is especially true for young people.

Screenshot from The Pudding Invisible Epidemic

How Bicycles can help combat loneliness

I thought about how a lot of the social ties that I have, friends and acquaintances, have been strengthened through bicycles.  Because bicycles are social vehicles. When you're on a bike, you're outside and able to easily interact with others. You can say hi to friends, you can smile at someone working on their garden. You can laugh when you hear a parent singing silly songs to their kid on the back of the cargo bike. We have a definite commute pattern with our Bike Bus, and one cool thing is that some people go on a morning walk at the same time. Or they have a similar bicycle commute. Or they're walking to a BART station to go to work. These repeated encounters create a familiarity, which often leads to friendly hellos and positive encounters.

Some of this is typical for any repeated trip or commute, but it's a lot easier to see a smile and hear or give a hello when you are on a bike.

The Bike Bus and friendships

The Bike Bus is especially nice for this. As a rolling group, we share a moving space together. We collectively look out for traffic hazards but also get a chance to chat. Adults can talk to each other, and kids usually have their own silly conversations. It's an extra 20 minutes of fun social time mixed with healthy physical activity each day.  Sometimes the kids play games and pretend their bike riding is part of some imaginary world. If it's wet, they'll try to follow the trail of whomever is riding in front of them. Adults usually chat about how hard it is to get kids out of the door in the morning, and whatever is happening that day or weekend. It's a nice way to catch up with people while doing something we already need to do: get the kids to school.  And all this is not possible in a motor vehicle.


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