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OPINION | ART HOBSON: When it comes to filling a life with joyful experiences, it's good advice to get on a bicycle

Joys of living can be found on a bicycle by Art Hobson | November 9, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.

British writer and historian H. G. Wells once said "Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." What with global warming, obesity, traffic congestion and other car-caused ailments, there is now more reason than ever to celebrate bicycling.

It's by far the most energy-efficient mode of transportation in the animal kingdom. Measuring efficiency in pound-miles of transportation per calorie of energy expended, bikes are twice as efficient as a typical fish, four times more efficient than a human or other walking mammal, five times more efficient than birds in flight, 10 times more efficient than trains, 40 times more efficient than airplanes and 100 times more efficient than cars.

Northwest Arkansas, with the 36-mile paved Greenway Trail connecting major cities, 130 miles of paved paths, and 250 miles of top-tier mountain bike trails, has become a national and international cycling destination. Last February, the Union Cycliste Internationale, the world's governing body for cycling, gave its Bike City label to Fayetteville -- the first time the award has gone to an American city. This links Fayetteville with other recipients such as Copenhagen and Paris. And the League of American Bicyclists ranks Fayetteville sixth nationally for its number of bicycle-friendly businesses.

With the help of federal and Walton Family Foundation grants, Northwest Arkansas cities and towns have been building up their biking infrastructure. Fayetteville's vision is to create a trail connection within a half-mile of every citizen.

In 1972, well before Fayetteville's Highroller Cyclery and Phat Tire, I drove to Springfield, Mo., to purchase a lightweight Peugeot bike. For decades, I rode it every day to my university office. Although I now have a different bike, I still consider it a bad day when I need to climb inside 3,000 pounds of steel just to travel a couple of miles to the campus. My main claims to bicycling glory were completing a century ride (100 miles), biking up Independence Pass from Aspen, Colo., and copping third place in a field of six "veteran" (over 40) cyclists in a 25-mile race around downtown Fayetteville. For this I was awarded a six-pack of beer.

In Fayetteville prior to the turn of the century, it was considered odd for an adult to ride a bicycle. The City Council considered bike lanes or trails to be a joke. Then mayors Dan Coody (2000-2009) and Lioneld Jordan (2009-present) introduced urban planning, and alternatives to the automobile became plausible. There were bike lanes, much disputed at first, then a few trails, and finally the Greenway.

Cycling adventures are available to everybody in Northwest Arkansas. From Fayetteville, ride the Greenway up to Lake Fayetteville and back, perhaps including the loop around the lake. Or ride the Greenway south to Mount Kessler, where you might do the mountain trails.

Marie and I once peddled from Fayetteville to Bentonville on a Friday, stayed two nights in Bentonville, and pedaled back on Sunday, 32 miles each direction. Some might find an electric assist helpful for a trip such as this. We spent Saturday at the Crystal Bridges museum and ate in Bentonville's excellent downtown restaurants for a fine weekend.

Or bicycle the Katy Trail in Missouri. This is a 237-mile stretch of converted MKT railway surface following Lewis and Clark's path along the Missouri River. Our family drove to Boonville, Mo., from which we rode some 150 miles during four days to St. Charles, staying in hotels and beds-and-breakfasts along the way. Or one can pack a tent and sleeping bags.

Marie and I have had many bicycling adventures in Europe, where most countries have networks of cycling trails linking towns and cities. Some of the best are in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. Inexpensive multi-day tours are easy to arrange; search on "cycling tours, Europe." Companies furnish bicycles (or bring your own), rent lodging (you can choose cheap or expensive), give you a detailed route map, and best of all they move your luggage from town to town. My favorite is Rad und Reisen -- wheel and travel.

On our last such adventure, we stayed one to three nights in each of seven cities from Amsterdam in The Netherlands down to Bruges in Belgium. Bicycling is a great way to experience the real Europe -- the towns and countryside as well as cities such as Amsterdam.

The point of life is to enjoy life, and to help others enjoy life. You can't do much better than cycling.

Print Headline: Let's go cycling!


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