04 May 2011

Bicycle Commuting: Benefits and Ways to Get Rolling

Part III of a Three-Part Series

In Part I of our series on bicycle commuting, we introduced some real-life commuters across the country and how they got started, what inspires them to keep going, and how they make it work. In Part II, we addressed some of the challenges of bicycle commuting, and how individuals were able to overcome obstacles and roadblocks so that they might travel on two wheels rather than four. In our final installation, we've collected testimonials on some of the benefits one can reap from bicycle commuting, and a few suggested ways to get rolling.

Bicycle Benefits

As previously mentioned in Part II, the key to getting more everyday individuals and families on bikes is to make cycling safe, accessible and convenient. Utilizing a bike for short trips (be it to work, school, the library or supermarket for a carton of milk) equates to improved health, reduction in congestion and heavy traffic volumes, and a noticeable savings in your wallet.

Adrian Ortiz of San Diego, CA summarizes: "I really like riding to work...I’m exercising, I get to enjoy the weather, I have my dog and I get to challenge my body to go up big hills and sprint to the next light. It’s better than the treadmill and I've actually lost weight."

Randy Rocheleau is committed to riding 36 miles round-trip from Albany to Watervliet, NY at least 3 days a week. "The main thing is the physical benefit: I get miles in that way." [When queried, he said he's stopped keeping track.] 3 days a week commuting = 108 miles per week for Rocheleau, plus two days a week doing group rides with the local cycling club and two days a week mountain biking. With that cycling regime, it's no wonder he's able to drop men half his age and enjoy fully-loaded, self-supported bicycle tours with his wife on his Surly Long Haul trucker.

Paul Moore waxes eloquently on the ways bike commuting can be workable AND enjoyable.

Here's what I love about my commute:

1) "I get lots of guilt-free training time in (I have a six-year-old son, and on weekends, every hour I spend riding is an hour I'm not spending with him). Commuting gives me a chance to ride while he's still sleeping."

2). "I'm simultaneously doing the "right" thing for my body and the environment. And BOTH make me feel GREAT!"

3) "Maybe--just maybe--others will see me and begin to see the bicycle as a viable alternative to their cars. I'm visible proof that one doesn't have to be Lance Armstrong or Superman to commute long distances to work."

4) "I leave my house at 5:30, well before rush hour. I pretty much have the streets and roads to myself. I see some of the same people every ride, and judging from the waves and smiles I get, I know at least some of them recognize me. I think I have become--in some small way--a part of their daily routines."

5) "I get to see the sun rise over the Sierra Nevada every morning and, depending on the time of year, I get to see it set, too. From my bike. On the same day."

6) "My commute, although almost perfectly flat, isn't boring; I pass a broad spectrum of sights, sounds, and smells...from very urban to very rural, then vice-versa coming home. From Starbucks to strawberry fields, Dairy Queens to dairy farms, and Orchard Supply Hardware stores to blossoming orange and almond orchards."

7) "There is no better way to wake up in the morning than riding my bike to work; and there's no better way to shrug off the stress and strains from work than riding my bike home. I can leave school with a million things grating on my mind, and by the time I get home, I've replaced them all with thoughts of a hot shower, some food, and some time well-spent with my wife and son. The days on which I drive just aren't the same."
Chris De Farcut, an avid commuter and part of the cycle club Peloton Charity Shield in Perth, Australia, reflects on his personal journey: "My commute started out as a means to an end, to get fit, and sell a car. Along the way I’ve: lost 6kg (1 stone), got my cholesterol and blood pressure in check (and a resting pulse of 48!), met some great people, formed a cycling club and successfully petitioned local government for all new roads to have wide road shoulders. When I’m having a tough day on the bike, I remind myself of these.

"When I started riding 2 years ago, the distances and experiences I’m having now would have been unthinkable. Riding long distances is no longer hard, or a duty. I enjoy my weekend competitive challenges amongst friends but it is no longer my main driving force. As my fitness and strength have improved, there is now an indefinable sensory connectedness between man and machine. It feels like a moving meditation of is timelessness where you no longer focus on the distance to be traveled. The power of your own body is translated to the fluid motion of the bike. The Japanese have a phrase for it: ‘Jinbai Itai’, Horse & Rider as one."

Ways to Get Rolling
Some tips and practical suggestions to make your efforts to go by bike roll a little smoother.

Whether to Weather the Weather

You know the old Norwegian saying, "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing?" Randy Rocheleau suggests you invest in some good rain gear---jackets that offer windblock protection and are both waterproof and breathable, such as the Showers Pass Elite 2.0 also help combat the cold weather. Other favorite cold-weather gear on his list includes Pearl Izumi Amfib tights and Lake winter MTB boots. "Having a technical outfit took away any excuses for not riding," he says. "[What gets me out the door is] my commitment to it. it's like qutting smoking; it's a commitment to yourself. It's no different than stating you were going to go gym 3 days week. Okay, it's Wednesday, I'm riding, so I dress appropriately for the weather."

Take Advantage of the Bicycle Commuter Act

According to the League of American Bicyclists, "The Bicycle Commuter Act is a simple, equitable solution to put cyclists on the same footing as people who receive qualified transportation benefits for taking transit or driving (or parking, actually) their cars to and from work. 

Any employer, if they chose to do so, may provide a reimbursement of up to $20 per month for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee in conjunction with their commute to work by bike. Please note, that unlike the other qualified transportation fringe benefits, a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement benefit cannot be funded through employee pre-tax income, nor can an employee receive both the transit and bicycle QTF in the same month." For more information, consult Bicycle Commuter Tax Provision: Frequently Asked Questions.

Make your workplace a Bicycle-Friendly Business

Does your workplace have bike racks or secure bike parking? On-site showers or changing facilities? Provide maps, resources, or otherwise encourage bicycle commuting? If so, they should consider applying to the League's Bicycle-Friendly Business Program. If not: encourage your workplace to apply. The checklist of what's needed and technical assistance and suggestions on how to get there may prove invaluable in increasing productivity, elevated moods and overall health of their employees, while cutting down on expensive parking spots and sick days.

Other suggestions by Momentum Magazine, March-April 2011:

1. Start slow.
Don't try to travel far distances by bike right off the bat. Take a trip to the nearest convenience store or a friend's place and work your way up from there.

2. Bike sharing.
May cities have bike share programs -- such as Montreal, Denver and Minneapolis -- that you can take advantage of for making small trips around the city.

3. Get a lift.
Integrating cycling and public transit systems allow you to place your bike on buses and light rail systems. If you live far away from transit and your final destination, you might also consider putting your bike in the trunk or on a rack, driving part of the way and cycling the rest.

4. Choosing the right ride.
There are many different bikes on the market, each suited to a different purpose and riding style. The best way to enjoy your ride is to invest in a bike that meets your needs. Options include:

* City bikes
* Folding bikes
* E-Bikes
*Cargo bikes

5. Proximity.
Living a bike lifestyle might also mean looking for a place near to where you work, shop and play. Finding a home within 5 kilometers of the places you frequent the most is ideal.

6. Accessories.
Enhance your commute by adding the right equipment to your bike, such as panniers, racks, baskets, clothing that is comfortable and stylish to ride in, lights and ergonomic grips.

Bob Palkon, at AT&T systems worker in Joliet, IL who rides 25 miles each way to his work-issued service truck, sums it up nicely: "I just feel better! Plain and simple! Riding reduces the stress of the day. I don't need as much medicine to keep my blood sugar under control. It is good for me. It doesn't even take too much time away from my family. Realistically it takes away about 1.25 hrs out out my time with them. the 2hrs in the morning is time I would just be sleeping and the additional hour is the difference between the drive and the ride home.

"I think, for me anyway, the reward comes from the accomplishment itself. The idea that riding to work becomes routine, providing all the benefit that come with it freely and without charge."

No comments:

We are on a mission to spread meaningful content and give you awesome deals on cycling clothing. Like us on Facebook and see for yourself.