Monday, May 14, 2012

FABB member interview - Seniors in Motion

An interview with FABB member Kerie Hitt about bicycling for seniors, Cycling, a Transportation Mode that Can Help Older Adults Stay Healthy, is featured on the National Center on Senior Transportation website:
What types of transportation do you use?

I use a bicycle for transportation as much as possible. My bike allows an upright riding position and has wide tires, a mirror, a kickstand, front and rear lights, and a rack and bags for carrying items. I bring a lock with me so that I can secure my bike when I get to my destination. I also carry a few tools and a spare tube.

Why did you begin bicycling?

Bicycling has been a lifelong activity for me. I began cycling as a child because cycling is fun. I started on a tricycle and then progressed to a two wheeler. In elementary school, I rode to the pool and to the playground. I didn’t have a car during college, and when I lived off campus for two years, I depended on my bike to get to classes. For almost 30 years, I biked regularly to my job at the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Virginia.

How has bicycling affected your ability to live a fuller life?

Bicycling takes me outdoors, exercises my body, and calms my mind. I like the challenge of getting around under my own power, the health benefits of cycling, and the satisfaction of being environmentally friendly. My husband and I have taken many bicycle tours around the country. Bicycling is a great way to see places whether they be national parks or urban areas. Not every bike trip around town will be an epic journey, but each one will be an adventure.

What advice do you have for others who may benefit from bicycling, but are concerned about trying an unfamiliar transportation mode?

As with any new activity, advance preparation and knowledge help you start. My main advice is to get a decent quality, practical bike that fits you and is appropriate for the intended use. Once you have a bike, have it tuned up periodically. The best place to buy a new or used bike usually is your locally-owned bike shop, not a big box store. A cheap bike might seem like a bargain at first, but it could cost you a lot over time because of difficult or impossible repair needs.

Don’t get hung up on having a fast lightweight bike. For everyday transportation, a bike like a “station wagon” is better than a bike like a “sports car.” Think outside the box and investigate crank forward bikes; 2- and 3-wheel recumbents; adult trikes; and electric assist cycles in addition to conventional bikes. These less common types offer various advantages, such as comfort for your neck, hands, and seat, and the 3-wheel models give options to people with balance problems or other health issues. Some people with Parkinson’s disease who are unable to walk can ride a bike!

If possible test ride a bike before buying it. You also could try renting a bike or using a community bike share. Familiarize yourself with trails and low traffic roads in your area suitable for riding and learn the “rules of the road” that apply to cyclists. Knowing proper riding techniques gives you more confidence and enhances your safety.

Check out the bike education programs offered by the League of American Bicyclists and your local bike advocacy group. In some areas you can find classes to teach adults how to ride if you didn’t learn as a child. “Momentum” and “Bicycle Times” are publications that focus on biking for transportation. Get on your bike and try some short trips and work up to longer ones. Finally, enjoy all the new opportunities that bicycling presents to you!

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