I don't dwell on the health benefits of biking much, partly because they're subtle in my case ( I don't have any fun story about how I dropped 50 lbs, alas) , but more importantly, I feel mostly that the other pleasures of biking are their own reward.
There was an article in the NY Times though that I found interesting, although perhaps obvious to even the casual observer of urban spaces. It posits that the move to the "luxury" of the suburbs has fueled the obesity crisis because the design of the suburbs does not facilitate active transportation- the kind of activity we get as we live our everyday lives. Well....... duh! Yes, it seems obvious, but there were lots of studies and data to back up what seems like a simple conclusion.
This was striking because after months of inertia, the Transportation bill has lurched into life, being used as a political football by politicians who think that more highways= more jobs. And while there's a certain truth to that, and in general I support spending on infrastructure to help create jobs in this economy, for some reason the people controlling the bill feel that even the 1.6% of the federal transportation budget that active transportation receives is WAAAY too much.
The current bill would cut out Transportation Enhancements, which is a flawed system, but it's one of the few funding mechanisms for paths, rail trails and sidewalk improvements. It also cuts Safe Routes to schools, which has been a very successful program in encouraging kids to walk and bike to school.
If you live in MA, you have a unique opportunity to
Bike and walking facilities cost much less to install and maintain than roads, and if well designed, they provide a network of infrastructure, on which people can incorporate active transport into their daily lives. And cutting them isn't a significant enough amount of money to make a difference in the larger budget. So why cut them unless you think of bikes and walking as recreation and a sideshow? I know that a lot of people feel activism fatigue, but in this tough budget times, it's going to be a constant fight to keep people who don't understand how bikes allow freedom for kids, and healthy lives for grown ups, reminded that there are people who do, and who vote, and who want their interests represented just as well as the big road contractors do.