Obesity and the Return of the Bicycle


You might have turned on the television news lately and were reminded that our health care system continues to be a hot mess. The GOP is currently fighting amongst itself over their overhaul of the health provider and insurance industries, but Democrats have shown no willingness to take advantage of this civil war and peel off moderate Republicans to form their own coalition for a replacement option.
My perspective is that a compromise should be found at least as a starting point which redesigns the Medicaid/ACA system to serve as universal coverage of catastrophic events and post-care. Taking out the most unpredictable events in the health insurance industry will relieve a great strain on the precept of the insurance industry, and if catastrophic events are covered, there will be fewer lawsuits.
But we are chasing the symptoms and not dealing with the infection that is driving wellness costs in America’s health care system — the fitness of Americans. People in the US have terrible health due to obesity. Inactivity and sugar are the biggest threat to American lives. Heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are all linked to diet and fitness. Some forms of cancer are also believed to be linked to fitness and diet too.
The great enemy in the cabinet is sugar, not fat. The body processes excessive amounts of sugar from sodas and cakes and turns the sugars into fat stores. And then the body tells you that it wants more by rewarding you with endorphins. Sin taxes on sodas have not been welcomed in many places. Perhaps the best solution is to educate the population as has been done on the effects of smoking.
Making America active again is the more difficult psychological challenge. Americans are not going to be convinced that they have to start going for a walk for an hour every day.
The only good solution that I have imagined would require the government to purchase all households a velomobile over the course of a decade. You cannot make Americans exercise, but you can give them a machine that will encourage their activity.
Velomobiles are essentially reclined, three-wheel bicycles with a fiberglass body, enclosed cabin, and a motor (electric or gas) to assist drivers. They are tiny, hyper-aerodynamic cars that would be considered human-powered hybrids. They feature windshield wipers, rear-view mirrors, headlamps, turn signals, and more features found on cars. Because they are human-assisted, so light, and create so little drag; velomobiles would have a high potential mpg ratio (if a gasoline model were built/released in the US).
The light weight of the velomobile would also make deaths from automobile accidents less prominent. The danger of vehicular deaths persists with all of our modern technology because the more regulations placed on cars for safety, the heavier and more deadly they become as projectiles on the road.
The greatest side effect of the proliferation of the velomobile on US roads would be that people would be able to exercise while getting around on our sprawling rural roadway system. The US is not like Europe or Japan in how American households outside of the large cities are spread across a large landscape. Traveling in the US almost always requires a vehicle. The practicality of walking anywhere in rural states like Mississippi just is not there and neither are the high speed, maglev trains. We need a paradigm shift in our culture that makes the roads friendlier to the use of bikes.