Although more than half of the U.S. population lives within five miles of their workplace, lack of knowledge and incentive has deterred many from commuting by bike. Hundreds of U.S. cities have been successful in increasing bicycle commuters by offering enticements on Bike to Work Day. Denver, Colo. reported in 2008 that over 10,352 people tried biking to work for the first time during a city-sponsored event. A study published by the San Diego Association of Governments showed that one out of five people who participated in their Bike to Work Day promotion as first-time commuters became regular bike commuters.
Events in Chicago, Ill. show us how biking to work makes sense. The city hosts several Car vs. Bus vs. Bike Commuter Races. Motorists, bus passengers and cyclists all start and end the morning rush hour at the same spots, but may take distinctly different routes. The bicyclist always wins. This demonstrates that biking to work can make a lot of sense.
Why else does biking to work make sense? For the environment, our heath and economics.
Too often overlooked and underrated, the bicycle is the simplest and most pleasure inducing way to get healthier while saving our environment and reconnecting with our community in a positive way. More bicycle use means a smaller carbon footprint. Autos are the single largest source of U.S. air pollution. Short trips are up to three times more polluting per mile than long trips. When bicycling is substituted for short auto trips, 3.6 pounds of pollutants per mile are not emitted into the atmosphere. Ten bikes can park in the space used by a single motor vehicle.
Health and Productivity
Over 66% of the adult US population is overweight and 32% of the US is obese, costing our nation $68 billion in health care and personal costs annually. Statistics on the lack of physical activity among children are also alarming. Most children are driven to school in cars or buses, and one child out of every 4 is overweight. Medical research has well established the fact that a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity three days a week can reduce incidents of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and hypertension and improve mental health and cardio-vascular fitness.
Employers in the community benefit from a healthy, active workforce. In addition to missing less work due to sickness, bicyclists generally accomplish more work. There’s nothing like riding to stimulate circulation, relieve stress, allow creative thought and establish a positive attitude toward oneself and one’s environment. Bicyclists are less likely to be affected by traffic congestion. Whether they ride on bike paths or surface roads, bicycles are much more maneuverable than automobiles. Wide lanes, shoulders and bike lanes provide space for bicyclists to ride right past traffic and on to work.
Bicycle commuting is a great way to squeeze regular exercise into a hectic schedule. Commuting time can be used to stay in shape instead of sitting frustrated in traffic. Bicycle commuters get to work on time more often and are happier and more productive. 80% of people who switch from sedentary commuting to cycling improve their heart, lungs and blood vessels greatly in 6-8 weeks, so they get sick much less often. For a 180 pound man, a 10 mile round trip bike commute burns 400 calories. For a 130-pound woman this same commute burns 300 calories.
Bicycle commuting saves on parking fees, parking tickets, fuel costs, auto maintenance costs and transit fares. In some large urban areas, it is possible to save over $200 per month on parking alone. A new bicycle and cycling gear would pay for itself in a few months. Cyclists can meet all of their transportation needs with a combination of bicycling, transit, and an occasional cab or rented car much cheaper than owning a car.
Since the biggest cost of automobile ownership are paid up front (insurance and car payments), some people can free up about 25 percent of their income by getting rid of their car or their second car. If the real taxpayer subsidy of autos were reflected in fuel taxes, a gallon of gasoline might cost as much as $9.00. That’s because other taxes cover the costs of road building, maintenance, parking space, police services and losses from accidents, pollution and congestion. If more commuters bicycled, these costs would go down. All taxpayers, businesses and citizens would save money!
After reading all of this you are still not convinced or you have an excuse why you cannot ride to work, than read on and excuses be gone.
Overcoming Bike Commuting Excuse
I’m out of shape
• Ride at an easy pace; in a few months you will be in great shape.
• Ride your route on a weekend to find the easiest way to work.
• You will improve your fitness level when you become a regular bike commuter.
It takes too long
• The average commuter travels at 10 mph; the more you ride, the faster you will become.
• Trips of less than three miles will be quicker by bike.
• Trips of five to seven miles in urban areas may take the same time or less as by car.
It’s too far
• Try riding to work and taking mass transit home, then alternating the next day.
• Combine riding and mass transit to shorten your commute.
• Ride to a coworker’s house and carpool to work.
No bike parking
• Look around for a storage area in your building or office.
• Stash your bike in a covered, secure place such as a closet or even your office.
• Formally request that your employer provide bike parking or lock it up outside.
My bike is beat up
• Tell a reputable bike shop that you are commuting and have them tune up your bike.
• If you can’t maintain your bike yourself, identify bike shops near your route.
• Make sure that your bike is reliable and in good working order before you ride.
• Most commuters don’t shower at work; ride at an easy pace to stay cool and dry.
• Ride home at a fast pace if you want a workout; shower when you get there.
• Health clubs offer showers; get a discounted membership for showers only.
I have to dress up
• Keep multiple sets of clothing at work; rotate them on days you drive.
• Have work clothes cleaned at nearby laundromats or dry cleaners.
• Pack clothes with you and change at work; try rolling clothes instead of folding.
• Fenders for your bike and raingear for your body will keep you dry.
• If you are at work, take transit or carpool to get home; ride home the next day.
• Take transit or drive if you don’t have the gear to ride comfortably in the rain.
The roads aren’t safe
• Obey traffic signs, ride on the right, signal turns, and stop at lights.
• Wear bright clothing.
• You are at no greater risk than driving a car.
• Wear a helmet every time you ride.
I have to run errands
• Bolt a rack to the back of your bike to add carrying capacity.
• Make sure that you have a lock to secure your bike while you are in a building.
• Allow extra time to get to scheduled appointments and find parking.
• Encourage your employer to provide a bicycle fleet for office use.