Next Week, Leave the Car at Home and Bike To Work

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May is the annual celebration of National Bike Month, which started in 1956, and the League of American Bicyclists is promoting the third week of the month as “Bike to Work Week” to encourage commuters to try biking to work instead of driving. Give it a try, if you can, and reap both physical and mental benefits of bicycling.

Riding a bicycle stimulates the circulation, relieves stress, and establishes a positive attitude toward oneself and one’s environment. For example, bicyclists tend to be less affected by traffic congestion and “road rage.” Because of this, bicycle commuters are often happier and more productive workers and get sick less often.

Commuting time is an excellent way to squeeze exercise into an already busy day and can burn between 300 to 400 calories for the average man or woman.

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Bicycling also reduces the amount of air pollution released on a daily basis from traffic. In a car, short trips are up to three times more polluting per mile than long trips. When biking is substituted for car commuting, 3.6 pounds of pollutants per mile are not released into the atmosphere. This is not only good for the environment, but also good for the respiratory health of everyone in your community.

Although more than half of the US population lives within five miles of their workplace, most people use their cars. Most often, the deterrent to most people using alternative methods, such as bicycling, is the lack of safe roads or the lack of knowledge on both the driver and the cyclist on proper safety and “share the road” techniques. Other excuses include “being out of shape” or “it takes too long to get where I’m going.” However, with a little bit of thinking outside the box, you can enjoy the benefits of biking to work.

The League of American Bicyclists offers these tips for overcoming bike commuting excuses:

• Ensure your bike is in good working order before you ride. One bad trip may put you off of bike-riding, but can easily be prevented.
• Don’t have a bike, but not sure if you can afford one? Bicycle commuting saves on parking fees, fuel costs, auto maintenance and public transit fees. A new bicycle plus safety gear can pay for itself in just a few months.
• Feel like you are out-of-shape? Ride at an easy pace and work up to faster speeds. Find a route that is flat instead of uphill, if possible. Another alternative is to bike somewhere closer, such as a co-worker’s house, and carpool from there.
• Since biking in a dress and heels is not comfortable or safe, keep an outfit in your office or locker at work to change into once you get there. Or if you are more casual, wear a backpack with a change of clothing – try rolling instead of folding to reduce wrinkling.
• If safety is a concern, remember to wear bright clothing and follow the “rules of the road”, such as riding with traffic (not against), obeying traffic lights and using appropriate hand signals. While you may seem more exposed, overall you are at no greater risk than driving in a car. Also, there is safety in numbers. Have a group of co-workers meet at a specified location and bike together to work from there. It can be a great way to bond and promote health at the same time.

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