The timing of Oxford’s observance of “Bikes to Lunch Day” on Wednesday as part of National Bike Week couldn’t have been better.
It’s a week that has seen gasoline prices in the region close in on the $3 mark, with a jump in crude oil prices Thursday signaling that the upward surge isn’t over.
A number of Oxford residents, including Mayor Richard Howorth, rode their bikes to downtown restaurants to call attention to the ease and efficiency of cycling as a means of getting around. It’s a message with a special resonance in a town with a real parking problem around its lively but congested square.
National Bike Week, sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, seeks to draw attention to the need for bike paths and lanes. Oxford has taken the lead among Northeast Mississippi cities in developing a plan to accommodate cyclists with pathways and lanes connecting key destination points.
No one expects the bicycle to challenge the automobile as the principal mode of transport. But there are many practical reasons for creating opportunities for people able and willing to use bicycles for some of their short-distance trips, as well as simply riding for pleasure.
Gas prices certainly are at the top of the practicality list, but congestion will increasingly be an issue in other growing, busy communities as it already is in Oxford.
Bike trails – whether for recreation and exercise or as an efficiency enhancer – are among the amenities that will distinguish communities in the future. Increasingly the choice of a place to live will be made by people who are looking first for what they perceive as a high quality of life and who may even decide on a locale before securing a job. Communities that want to attract bright young business people and professionals who help create wealth and jobs for others – not to mention large companies looking for a new place to invest – will need to focus on quality of life amenities. A recently created Quality of Life Committee in Tupelo is a recognition of that reality.
When people are looking for ways to improve their health and fitness, for relief from the stresses and strains of the day, for less congestion and traffic, and for ways to get around efficiently, bicycle paths, jogging trails and pedestrian-friendly streets and neighborhoods will all be important attractions. They’ll be standard fare in progressive communities in the not-too-distant future – you can bike on that.
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