Editor's note: The following column was written by Judy Amabile, the president of Polar Bottle Product Architect's Inc. and Adeline Bash, public relations associate for Polar Bottle Product Architect's Inc.
When people look back at the Tour de France race records from 1999 to 2005, the winner’s slot will stand empty — testimony to the widespread doping that has not only pocked the prestigious race’s history, but also threatened to tarnish the reputation of the entire United States cycling industry.
As members of the U.S. cycling industry and fans of the sport, many of us feel sad and disappointed by the recent doping scandal. We cannot, however, let the scandal overshadow the progress we have made in the past decade in fighting obesity, pollution and traffic gridlock by encouraging millions of Americans to take to the streets and trails by bike.
Winning gold medals in prestigious races put U.S. cycling in the international spotlight and helped revitalize this country’s enthusiasm for the sport, which got more Americans on bikes. Behind the scenes, however, we had other equally important victories. Some of the medals might be gone, but the enthusiasm for cycling should not go with them.
In 1999, for example, the Bikes Belong Coalition — a national coalition of bicycle retailers and suppliers — formed to advocate for better public policy and federal funding so more Americans would have access to bicycles and safe paths to ride.
By the end of the 1990s, Bikes Belong and other organizations, like the League of American Bicyclists and the Alliance for Biking and Walking, helped establish new bike paths and trails in communities across the country as well as secure funding for programs like Safe Routes to School and Complete Streets.
The mountain biking community has developed hundreds of miles of trails thanks to the hard work of organizations like the International Mountain Bike Association and funding from the Federal Recreational Trails Program, established in 1991.
Since its establishment, Bikes Belong alone has won $4.5 billion in federal funding for new bike programs and facilities.
In 2000, in San Francisco, the city saw a record high number of bike trips to work — up 110 percent from 1990, according to the League of American Bicyclists. Cities Like Portland and New York City followed similar trends.
That same year, a record high of 20 million new bikes were sold in the United States and since 2000 the number of people who bike to work has increased by 43 percent, according to the League of American Bicyclists.
Over the past decade, there have been a rising number of highly successful community bike-sharing programs — fueled by a growing movement of Americans dedicated to environmental preservation through alternative transportation.
Bike races, events and clubs are popping up around the country in record numbers.
Most recently, bikes offered an alternative transportation option for New Yorkers after the city’s subway system was shut down following Hurricane Sandy.
These victories may not make headlines. That does not, however, discredit the work this community has put into making the United States a more bike-friendly place. It is our responsibility to not allow the recent doping scandal to divert focus from this mission. Do not let the actions of a few undermine the achievements of millions of cyclists using bikes every day to improve the health of our environment, this country and its citizens.