June 2, 2013

Editorial: Biking: exercise, less gasoline


---- — News last week that New York City is inaugurating a revolutionary bike-sharing program is a reminder that the use of a bicycle instead of an automobile ought to be encouraged wherever possible, and certainly within our city and village limits in the North Country.

Bike use has so many obvious benefits, but we’ll quickly hit on two: physical exercise and savings of gasoline. Anyone who can use a bike, even occasionally, should strongly consider it.

In New York, 6,000 bikes are being made available at 300 sites around the city. That’s 6,000 bikes for a city of more than 7 million people. The bikes are being supplied by sponsors, the lead of which is Citigroup.

The advantage to New Yorkers, besides exercise and gas, is convenience. Driving in that snarl of traffic is so troublesome that Mayor Michael Bloomberg has called on residents and visitors not to do it at all unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Of course, New York has alternatives that many communities in our area don’t: buses and a subway, as well as many fleets of taxis.

But most New Yorkers live in high-rises, which makes bicycle transport clumsy if not downright impossible. So the new plan will allow people to pick up a bike at any of the 300 racks in the city and leave it at any other. Other metropolises have similars system, including, near us, Montreal.

That’s a system that Plattsburgh, for example, wouldn’t need. But it’s a reminder to us all that biking is a terrific idea that we should be exploiting more than we do.

Bike lanes are provided now in many areas of the city, and the Saranac River Trail makes it inviting for us to participate. It’s 1.3 miles of a picturesque, paved track behind SUNY Plattsburgh, extending from Plattsburgh High School through downtown and beyond.

It’s now possible to safely travel by bike from any Point A to any Point B throughout the city.

What would be a true windfall would be a route westward along Route 3 so aspiring bikers could get from downtown out to the shopping venues on the West End. That route still presents some peril to the casual biker. Plans are being discussed to eventually extend the River Trail out in that direction.

If New York City can do it, why couldn’t we? If it’s safe to ride a bicycle on Broadway, it ought to be a cinch on Route 3, with a little enhancement.

The Velo Quebec Grand Tour, which wound its way through the North Country in the summer of 2010, proved that area roads are navigable by bike. Riders raved about the scenery, the roads and the reception they received from locals.

Bikes are a big hit. They could be even bigger, and we’d all be better off.