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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Improve Your Life: Bike to Work

From U.S. News & World Report, 01.10.09:

Ride Your Bike to Work
You can save money on gas and get some extra exercise

On a freezing November morning in Chicago, Megan Mason puts on leggings, several polyester tops and a fleece, a windbreaker, four pairs of gloves, and silk sock liners. She ties a bandana over her head, dons earmuffs, snaps on a helmet, safety-pins a scarf into a cocoon around her head, and gets on her bright green Schwinn for a 6.5-mile ride to work.

Surely anyone who braves Windy City cold must be a hardcore biker. But Mason, a 27-year-old curriculum analyst at the Northwestern University School of Law, is new to the ranks of cycle commuters--one of thousands of Americans who this year have switched to pedal power. It's too soon for national numbers, but many cities and counties are reporting a surge. In Chicago, 3,500 people rode in a spring Bike to Work day, up from 2,800 last year. Bikestation, a nonprofit that has six indoor parking facilities for cyclists on the West Coast, mainly in downtown neighborhoods, has seen a 30 percent increase in usage in the past year...

The thought of urban cycling can pose a minicrisis for a newcomer. Mason had to overcome her fear of city streets and dark winter nights. How do you make the leap from wannabe to bike commuter? Cycling gurus are happy to offer advice. (Read more.)
The momentum continues for bicycling in 2009, with this "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009" feature in an important national news magazine. "Bike to Work" tops the suggestions for the "Your Body" category--which also suggests napping and an eye exam--in U.S. News & World Report's "50 Ways to Improve Your Life in 2009" feature.

Despite the recent decline in gas prices, this new year is a very promising one for bicycle commuting. This article mentions the new Bicycle Commuter Act taking effect in 2009, which can help employers support bicycle-related expenses. Much of the political talk is of a need for economic stimulus, which could present opportunities to improve local bicycling conditions (more on this later.) And two new bicycle commuting books are now out to help aspiring bike commuters: my own book (with Roni Sarig) The Bike to Work Guide: What You Need to Know to Save Gas, Go Green, Get Fit; and the Bike to Work Book, by Tim Grahl of and Carlton Reid of

One of the best ways to encourage more bicycle commuting is to simply keep riding, offering a visible presence on the streets and role model among our associates. What else do you plan to do to encourage more bicycle commuting among your colleagues and friends in 2009?

Image: U.S. News & World Report
Visit: Thrifty Living: Get on your bike to make big savings, The Independent (UK)
Visit: Letters: Bike to Work Perks, U.S. News & World Report
Visit: A Surge in Bicyclists Appears to be Waiting, New York Times
Visit: Bikes back in fashion as eco-friendly alternative, Japan Times
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


Anonymous said...

That's so cool that you now have your own book! To encourage more women to try bike commuting, my friend and I recently started a blog about our experiences. It's one of many such blogs, but I learned so much from bike blogs when I started commuting, I figured I could continue the tradition.

IgorTheCat said...

Welcome back! I missed your blog.

Sadly, here in San Diego the bike to work movement took a hit recently. The North County Transit District raised their fares by 12%. This is on top of a fare increase earlier last year. Combined with the recent fall in the price of gasoline, it is now cheaper for me to drive my 90 mile daily commute, even factoring in maintenance and depreciation.

With so much talk of stimulating the economy with infrastructure, I fear the priority will be given to more roads, at the expense of public transit. I have seen this trend in our local government. Creating a future that includes bicycles as an important part of the transit matrix requires that bike friendly trains and busses be funded. Oil prices will not stay low. Petroleum is a finite resource, and bio-fuels are no panacea.

The car companies like to espouse the “freedom” that comes from individual transit. I see that as freedom to put up with two hours a day of mind numbing attention to a white line, vs. the freedom to spend three hours a day catching up on my reading, making friends (instead of road raging enemies), and breathing cleaner air.

Anonymous said...

Nice list of books. Here is one for justifying bike commuting on cost alone. How to live well without owning a car by Chris Balish

gate valves said...

biking not only saves gas but a good exercise as well

Anonymous said...

I bike/train commute from Mt. Juliet to Nashville, TN everyday. I love it! The biking part is 18 miles round-trip. Bike commuting is great for my health and the Earth's health. It's a great way to really learn about a city and meet people. It can give you a whole new outlook on life. I'm a librarian at a community college, and I once checked out my bike to an occupational therapy student for a final exam project she was doing that involved using a bike.

Forrest said...

It sounds like either the cyclist in Chicago is amazingly overdressed for the weather, or Chicago is much, much colder than Fairbanks, Alaska. I think it's probably the first option.

And I think this is something that discourages bike use. I know Seattle has far more cyclists on the streets and trails in the summer than in the winter, and this has been an especially mild winter. Most of the seasons, the temps have been in the 40s and 50s, and there's been surprisingly little rain. But who in their right mind bikes in the winter...?

I've found that if I'm not a little cold when I head out on a bike ride, I'll be uncomfortably warm before too long. Exercise is its own heater, and, like the one in a car, this one takes a moment to come to life. Knowing how one's body reacts to exercise is crucial, but, after that, the right clothes make the rest of the difference. Wool and GoreTex have worked very well for me, but, I think everyone has their own sweet spot. And once they find it, the weather just stops being an issue, even biking down a hill at 30 mph after working up a sweat climbing the other side of that hill.