Bike To Work Week

Thanh -- May 11th, 2008

This week, May 12-16, is National Bike To Work Week and Friday May 16 is Bike To Work Day. Individuals are encouraged by a variety of agencies and organizations to ride their bikes to work instead of driving. On May 1, Deputy Secretary of Transportation Ralph Davis proclaimed from the Capitol steps that May is Bike To Work Month (read the proclimation). Locally, the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Healthy Community Council’s Green Team has been promoting this event with flyers, and the  Harrisonburg-Rockingham Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) has put out a PSA (click to listen) on local radio stations to encourage citizens to bike to work.

Biking to work has many benefits for the economy, your health, the environment, and the area’s transportation network.

  • According to the Surgeon General, approximately 300,000 U.S. deaths a year currently are associated with being obese or overweight. This compares to 400,000 deaths a year associated with cigarette smoking. In 2002, obesity-related medical care spending accounted for 11.6 percent of all private health care spending, compared to just 2 percent in 1987, concludes Health Affairs.
  • Bicycles cost far less than automobiles to purchase and maintain, and do not require a continual intake of increasingly expensive gasoline. Between six and twenty bicycles can be parked in the space a motor vehicle requires for parking. Bicycles also cause little, if any, wear and tear on roadways.
  • Motor vehicle emissions represent 31 percent of total carbon dioxide, 81 percent of carbon monoxide, and 49 percent of nitrogen oxides released in the U.S. (The Green Commuter, a publication of the Clean Air Council). A short, four-mile round trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe. (WorldWatch Institute).
  • According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle.
  • Bicycling can help solve two of our nation’s leading crises: skyrocketing healthcare costs, which are damaging every sector of our economy, and the obesity epidemic, which in 2000 caused 400,000 deaths, 16.6 percent of all deaths recorded, due to physical inactivity and poor diet. A study of almost 200,000 General Motors employees found that overweight and obese individuals average up to $1,500 more in annual medical costs than healthy-weight individuals. By getting people moving again, bicycling can help improve Americans lose weight and improve their physical fitness.
  • Here’s a really intersting and inspiring video.

     (Transportation Alternatives (T.A.) gathered a gaggle of cyclists on 42nd Street in Manhattan to stage a dramatic visual that shows how much street space is gained if more people rode bicycles or took mass transit instead of driving personal cars.) 

    For information on bicycle and motorist safety, and tips on riding to work (such as what to wear, how to pack, how to find a good route) you can visit the following websites:

    Your local bicycle shop can help get you fitted for a good commuting bike, and the staff there can also give you tips on how to best outfit your bike and yourself for a comfortable bicycle commute to work. Feel free to also post tips and information for other hburgnews readers below in the comments field. Happy riding!

    11 Responses to “Bike To Work Week”

    1. Thanh says:

      Lately I’ve found myself riding my bike to work about 2-3 days a week. Sometimes I find myself waking up too late, not wanting to ride in the rain or when its REALLY cold, or I have to be somewhere after work that “requires” driving. I hope to overcome these “problems” (which aren’t impossible hurdles to overcome) soon and work myself up to riding my bike to work more often. I need to wake up 5-10 minutes earlier, learn to dress properly and warmly, and convince myself that more places are within bicycling distance.

      As for biking to work, I generally leave early enough that its not too hot outside. I wear my “work clothes” (business casual) and pack extra clothes and shoes for the ride home in my saddle bag that attaches over the back bike tire. I put my packed lunch in the saddle bag too. I wear a messenger bag that I keep some work-related papers in, and try to keep that bag as light as possible. I use front and back bike lights for visibility (more for motorists to see me).

      My commute to work is about 2 miles or a little less and takes no more than 15 minutes (if I drove it would take about 7 minutes to get to work, so its not much longer). I choose my routes carefully and generally prefer to ride the neighborhood streets and when I find myself on Main Street, depending on the hour of day I might use the sidewalk instead of the street, always riding with the direction of vehicular traffic. On my way home from work, I change out of my work clothes, because I sometimes get a little sweaty, and get into my biking clothes (which for casual riding lately consist of lightweight NorthFace pants and a regular tshirt, nothing fancy).

      I always seem to feel better after riding. At work I find myself being more alert after a bike ride.

    2. Gregory says:

      It has been my goal to bike to work every day, unless I need to carry something to or from work that is too heavy for the bicycle. Considering that I only live a few blocks from work, this hasn’t been too hard, and like Thanh, I’ve found that I feel better and am more alert after riding–even a short distance. I would encourage everyone to consider walking or biking to work on a regular basis, provided the distance of your commute allows.

    3. Sarah says:

      That’s great Thanh! Within the last 2 months (warm weather), I have started biking to work on average 2-3 days a week, too. My motivations are both personal/fitness and socially/environmentally motivated. My major obstacles are similar: weather, snooze button, and also that some days I will have to transport others home and would end up using more fuel (due to backtracking across town) if I had biked. Eventually I’d like to expand my biking season to stretch beyond warmer days and into/over winter – learn what clothes work best in cold weather and learn to brave it! Any suggestions on these two points will be duly noted!

      I also feel GREAT after biking to work. Now on days that I drive, it takes me an extra 45 minutes to really feel awake and alert at work.

      My commute is 3 miles one-way. By car:10-12 minutes (and many of those sitting at stop lights), by bike: 17-19 minutes. Though I love sleep, I can wake up 10 minutes earlier most days. I’m still trying out different routes to see which I like best. Usually I ride on 42 South during rush hour for about half my ride. It hasn’t been too bad.

      The other day, I was biking and stopped at a light by JMU. A JMU cop pulled up next to me and joked that he’d “never seen a biker obey the traffic laws, let me get my camera, etc”. He was friendly enough, and went on to say that the worst accident on campus he’d seen this year was a pedestrian being hit by a bicyclist. It sounded terrible -and I’m sure it was. Lo and behold, less than 2 blocks later, I’m passing a side street and a large SUV tries to turn from the main road across traffic (me) into the side road. They didn’t see me. I yelled and kicked my feet out and fortunately they screeched to a stop in time. Somehow, I think that would have been a pretty ugly accident, too. The next week, I had a green light, and was about to cross Main Street downtown, when a minivan, going the WRONG WAY down Main (and thus didn’t see their red light), barreled through the intersection (for some reason they were going well over 25mph), I braked hard and yelled for my life, they kept going.

      I’m sure every biker has stories like these. I’m sure most motorists have stories of bikers being invisible (dark clothing, no lights). It happens. I know for me, I’m going to continue biking to work. People I share the road with every morning will become more used to it. I’m also going to invest in one of those bright orange vests or something of that ilk. None of us can afford NOT to pay attention.

    4. dan says:

      I ride my bike 40 miles to work, and 40 miles home. It has taken a while to adjust to. I usually do not look forward to the ride to work, because it is early and I am tired and grumpy, but boy do I look forward to the post work ride. It takes me an hour to drive to work, on a good day with good traffic, which is usually not the case in Northern Va. but the bike trip is almost solely on bike paths, and I can do it in an hour and 45 minutes if I work for it. I struggle with this 5 days a week because it usually rains somedays, but I do it 3-4 days a week generally.

      My biggest problem is getting up on time, and having all my stuff packed. I try and pack my bags the night before, so all I have to do is roll outta bed at 630, put on my spandex, fry some eggs, eat, vape and go.

    5. Hlestyan says:

      I’ve been biking to work pretty much every day since January, when I started working downtown. I admit that it’s a lot more fun now that the weather has warmed up! The coolest thing about my commute was watching the days get longer- a few minutes more light each day was very noticeable and gave me hope that Spring was coming. I also got to see the plants popping up, and interact more with my friends and neighbors on the way home each day.

      It takes me about 8 to 10 minutes to get to work, and like Thanh, I prefer riding through the neighborhoods to riding along the roads like 42. My office is very business casual, so I usually just ride in whatever I am wearing to work that day, or bring something to chance into if something dressier is required. During the winter, I dressed like I was going on an arctic expedition, so that I wouldn’t be completely frozen by the time I got to the office.

      I have a messenger bag that I use to carry everything I need for the day: papers, computer, and sometimes lunch. If I need to run errands during the day, I try and go by bike. I can’t wait until the Friendly City Food Co-op gets going, because then I can do my grocery shopping by bike as well.

      I will suggest to anyone who is riding after dark is to make sure you have lights on your bike; you can get them at the local bike shops, and they are very easy to attach to your handlebars or seat post. And a helmet is a very good idea.

      The people I run into in the elevator always comment on my bike- and my two other co-workers who ride- and think it looks like a great, fun way to get around. Hopefully they will use this week as an excuse to try it out themselves and experience first-hand how fun it is.

    6. Thanh says:

      I think that being comfortable on any bike ride is really important. Having a comfortable bike especially. Before I got my bike I remember thinking about how expensive a “good” bike is. I’m glad I didn’t skimp this time. I spent about $450 on my bike, I think. Of course you can always spend more. But I had to look at the cost as an investment, just like an investment on a car, but way cheaper. Anyway, once I got myself a comfortable bike I found myself wanting to ride around more. Most, if not all bike shops, will let you test bikes around their parking lot, and I know of some that will let you borrow the bike – sometimes with a rental which the cost of can be applied to the bike end up purchasing.

      And I definately agree with Heidi’s observation: “interact more with my friends and neighbors.” I also find myself interacting more with people when I’m walking or biking around town. Its because I’m not in a box that shuts me off from the world (a car), and I am able to stop pretty much anytime to have a good, even if brief, conversation. I also notice more things like ducks, people on their front porches, etc.

    7. Justin C says:

      I started the week off with the intention of biking every day.

      In reality I’ve done it twice so far.

      It really is a life style change and takes time, so if I sleep in a little it can force me to drive.

      That said, the days I do I really enjoy it. I arrive at the office much more awake and in a better mood. Also, to echo Heidi and Thanh’s statement, I’ve talked more with my neighbors this week then I did last month.

    8. ilse says:

      Rosetta Stone encouraged Bike to Work day this year….

    9. Frank J Witt says:

      Whewwwww, first bike ride in a while and although it was only 3 miles, it sure is warm out. I am happy about how soaked my shirt got though…now we will see if I can make it home without drowning in the late afternoon showers…

    10. Reading thru the Hburg ordinances and found this rather amusing…

      Guess I better find 50 cents to register my bike…

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