Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Choose your battles wisely

Those of you who know me know that I am a former motorcycle rider and power boat owner. I admit it. But over the years I've had time to think about my personal health issues as well as the direction that people in general seem to be going in terms of neglecting their health. I have changed my lifestyle to be more in line with the obvious direction that I needed to take and that our nation needs to go in terms of healthy living.
Last night I attended a community meeting to inform the public about plans to help restore and preserve a portion of the greenway along the Milwaukee River just north of downtown Milwaukee. As someone who enjoys kayaking on the river as well as cycling, I was curious to see what the plans are for the wooded areas on both sides of the river. I was struck by comments from a couple of people who spoke out in favor of the plan but added that they did not want to see mountain bike trails developed in the area. I have biked in this area and as I'm sure those people know, the mountain bike trails -- and mountain bikers --  are already there. They're just not "official" trails. From what I undestand, the people speaking against mountain biking are worried that this activity will infringe on wildlife in that area.

At first, that may sound like a noble stance to take, but it's misguided. Plans for the future should embrace activities that promote human-powered recreation -- including mountain biking. The real battle that we should be waging is not against activities that promote healthy lifestyles. Instead, we should provide outdoor opportunities for exercise and enjoying nature and then educate and encourage people not to use gasoline-powered machines for recreation. Not only are gas-powered recreational vehicles bad for the environment, they also contribute to our nation's health problems. Mountain biking is infintely better for health than riding an ATV or a motorcycle. Kayaking and canoeing does more to keep you healthy than power boating. And while motorcycles have a practical niche as a fuel-saving form of commuter transportation, their use as recreational vehicles does little to contribute to physical health. If it's a beautiful day and you feel like getting outside and hopping on a bike, why not make it a "real" bike?

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