The Wonders of Walking & Bicycling

By Michael Caduto

SUS-WOO KIDS, Part 1 of 2

The road goes ever on and on

down from the door where it began.

Now far ahead the road has gone,

And I must follow if I can.

The Fellowship of the Ring

 J.R.R. Tolkien, 1965

Everyone loves a good journey. We feel alive when we’re on the road—seeing new places and meeting new people. One of the reasons that so many readers are drawn to the stories of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings is that, through Hobbit eyes, we live out our own dreams of taking an epic journey.

Although we often try to get where we’re going as fast as we can, good stories remind us that we often have our greatest adventures during the journey, itself. The way in which we choose to get where we’re going, and the experiences we have along the way, are often more fun, interesting and exciting than the destination. When walking or bicycling we are connected to the land and the people around us. We see, hear and smell our surroundings—and meet our neighbors—in a closer way than happens when we’re encased in the glass, steel and plastic shell of an automobile. 

Say you want to go to your friend’s house, and then find a place to play basketball, field hockey or go sledding. Will you walk or pedal your bicycle, or ask your parents for a ride in the car? It seems like a small choice, but it’s one that makes a big impact on the planet. For example: on average, every mile driven on a bicycle creates 1/10th of the carbon footprint as compared to a mile driven in a gas-powered car (sedan). Every crank of the pedals, and every step you take, creates fewer carbon emissions and helps to fight climate change!

Energy can be measured in calories, as in “How many calories are in that bowl of ice cream, compared to that tossed salad?” The average car burns about 1,860 calories to move a passenger one mile. Taking a train or public bus uses about half this much energy. If you walk that same mile, you’ll burn 100 calories. But if you take a bicycle, you’ll only use 35 calories. This comes out to more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) on a bicycle for each mile by car. You can pedal over 800 miles (1,288 kilometers) using the same amount of energy that is contained in one gallon of gasoline!

This is how far 350 calories will get you when using different forms of transportation:

• bicycle—10 miles (16 kilometers)

• walking—3.5 miles (5.6)

• car—1,000 feet (305 meters)

And keep in mind that more than half of places we travel are less than 5 miles from home.

Hoofing It to a Healthier Life

Has anyone ever told you, “Go take a hike!” Whoever did so—whether they meant to or not—was actually telling you to do something that’s good for you! Walking 3 or 4 times each week:

  • helps you to control your weight and stay healthy
  • keeps your mind sharp and alert
  • relieves stress, anger and other negative emotions
  • helps you to get to know your neighbors and meet new friends along your walking routes
  • helps you to feel good about yourself (simply because you’ve done something to take care of yourself)
  • inspires ideas and creativity (many of the ideas behind this author’s articles and books came to mind while taking a walk)
  • acts as a kind of meditation that helps you to renew your spirit

The writer discovered pine grosbeaks feeding on winter apples during one of his long winter walks. Photo: Michael J. Caduto.

What You Can Do

  • Over time, take walks and bicycle rides to different places and keep a journal record of your experiences, observations and the people you meet.
  • Find out about parks, historic walks and natural areas to hike that are within a short distance from your home. Ask your parents to take the family to some of those places on weekends, or in the evenings, so you can share walking experiences together.
  • Search the Find a Trail maps on the Upper Valley Trails Alliance website:
  • Download the Walk Woodstock map to search for a route among Woodstock’s more than 60 miles of local trails:• Embark on some of the fascinating Valley Quests offered by Vital Communities. These fun, educational treasure hunts offer clues to discovering the people, history and natural environments in the Upper Valley. Questing helps us to discover the fascinating stories that are all around us. Visit the Questing web page to find out more:


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