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“The Cut” is a weekly reporters notebook-type essay by an Ideastream Public Media content creator, reflecting on the news and on life in Northeast Ohio. What exactly does “The Cut” mean? It's a throwback to the old days of using a razor blade to cut analog tape. In radio lingo, we refer to sound bites as “cuts.” So think of these behind-the-scene essays as “cuts” from Ideastream's producers.

Want to improve the planet and better your health? Ride a bike

Ground Picture
Biking to work is healthy for people and the environment.

I have to admit, I'm not a bike rider. But as the environment reporter at Ideastream Public Media, I've learned a lot about the benefits of biking, for the riders and for the planet.

It makes me want to get in the saddle.

I've spent a lot of time talking to bicyclists, planners and public policy experts about efforts to make communities welcoming to bicycles.

Cleveland and many other cities are taking special interest in bikeway projects and complete street infrastructure that thinks about how roads can safely accommodate more than cars and trucks.

That's key to me. With my bicycling inexperience, I'm intimidated by the thought of riding a bike down a city street thick with traffic. I marvel at those who do, but it just doesn't feel comfortable to me. Safe and protected bike lanes would make me more likely to ditch my car once in a while.

And that's a good thing. Biking serves as a fun way to exercise on the go while also reducing carbon emissions that contribute to the effects of climate change.

Biking instead of driving can save you money on gas while increasing the life span of our cars and trucks. It will also reduce our carbon footprints and overall impact on the environment.

Driving is a major contributor to carbon emissions in the region. The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency reports that personal vehicles and light-duty trucks account for about 74% of all road-based greenhouse gas emissions across its five-county region.

Large amounts of carbon in the atmosphere, spewed out from gas-burning engines, worsens air quality and contributes to the effects of climate change, like severe and frequent storms, flooding and sea-level rise.

In March, the United Nations released its annual Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. It found that the planet will only continue to get warmer unless we significantly reduce emission levels.

So, any effort we make to reduce our use of personal vehicles, and relying instead on public transit or other modes of transportation (like biking!), is a pedal stroke toward reducing Northeast Ohio’s carbon footprint.

I'm working on some stories about efforts to develop a biking culture in Northeast Ohio. There are projects underway in the region to add bike lanes that are accessible to cyclists of all experience levels like the Van Aken Bikeway in Shaker Heights, the North Coast Connector in Downtown Cleveland and the Euclid Beach Bikeway project on Cleveland’s East Side.

These projects are still in the early stages, but they aim to provide a walking and biking trail safe and accessible for people of all ages and abilities. This way, even less experienced cyclists like myself have the opportunity to get outside, exercise and help better the community.

I'm renting a bike next week to go for a ride with an ardent bicycling evangelist, Bike Cleveland's Jacob VanSickle. Bike Cleveland has a list of bike share programs on its website.

You probably will see Jacob and a whole lot of other cyclists on the road Friday. It's Bike-to-Work Day, a national holiday founded by the League of American Bicyclists in 1956 to promote cycling and the health benefits of using bikes as a regular mode of transportation.

Maybe you'll be among the two-wheeled commuters. If not, please be considerate and share the road safely.

Those looking to plan their trip ahead of time can use Ohio Bikeways’ list of Northeast Ohio’s bike lanes, NOACA’s county-based bike maps and even Google Maps “Cycling” travel mode option.

Be on the look out for local Bike-to-Work Day events Friday morning. Bike Cleveland is offering coffee and snacks to riders in Downtown Cleveland, University Circle and Cleveland Heights so riders can fuel up before peddling to work.

A little bit of good can go a long way – especially if you’re having fun while doing it. If you do hop on a bike Friday, or next week like me, remember to ride with the flow of traffic, stay aware of your surroundings and don’t forget your helmet!

"The Cut" is featured in Ideastream Public Media's weekly newsletter, The Frequency Week in Review. To get The Frequency Week in Review, The Daily Frequency or any of our newsletters, sign up on Ideastream's newsletter subscription page.

Zaria Johnson is a reporter/producer at Ideastream Public Media covering the environment.