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1. Environmental Responsibility - Conservative types may cringe when you reference Mother Earth as a reason for riding, but the health of the planet has an obvious and unavoidable connection to commuting. The more you ride the less you drive, and that includes not only solo riders but also those who use carpools and public transport. With few exceptions, busses, trains and ride-share vans are powered by petroleum, just like your average car. Moving more people with a given amount of fuel is obviously better, but it is not an answer to pollution.
2. Economic Sense - Gas prices are at an all time high and although they may drop 10 or 15 cents now and then, they are not going to go down by any substantial amount for any substantial period of time. Rising gas prices are the result of both simple and complex economic reasons, but they are a matter of fact either way. For a five-day workweek anyone driving on a daily basis is going to be shelling out cash at the gas pump, even if they're driving the latest, most fuel-efficient hybrid. All vehicles use fuel, and it should be pointed out that even commuter trains running on electric lines are using either coal or petroleum (electricity is made only in small quantities by hydro or wind energy). Commuting by bicycle can save as much as $50 per week (there are, remarkably, people who drive gas-guzzling SUVs 40 miles one-way to work every day of the week), depending on what vehicle you are driving, and even on a monthly basis that adds up to a substantial amount. If you add to that the cost of a gym or health club membership (which is becoming increasingly common) that can be eliminated by combining a fitness routine with the commute to work, it is not uncommon for the average Joe to save $300 per month simply by commuting by bicycle.
3. Fitness - Lets face it, working out sucks. Even if you don't have a gym membership (which can range from $50 to $150 per month), you should be getting some exercise on a daily basis. If you are one of those people who find riding a stationary bike or running on a treadmill while staring at the wall for an hour a day enjoyable, more power to you. But I don't, and most people I know do not. Even if you spend your morning jogging with a friend or with the dog, commuting by bike will only serve to boost your overall fitness (not to mention save your knees).
4. Time Management - If you're not currently exercising and would like to, but can't seem to find the time, commuting by bike is an easy and obvious answer. In my experience - and unless you are pulling straight out of your garage onto a freeway and driving 60 miles per hour the whole way this should be the case for you as well - commuting by bike rarely takes more than an additional 30 minutes over traveling by car. In many instances, especially in dense urban or suburban areas, bicycles are actually faster than automobiles. The reasons are simple - those annoying intersections of chaos and frustrating traffic jams are far more navigable on a bike. If you also take into account the amount of time you won't have to spend in the gym or running around the neighborhood because your exercise is being provided on the way to work, commuting by bike becomes an easy shortcut in the hustle-and-bustle of our busy lives.
5. The Calm Before the Storm - Without getting into a bunch of scientific explanations of endorphins, let me just say that riding to work can be a very calm, relaxing experience that will leave you with a natural buzz with which to attack the often strenuous and un-enjoyable workday. We have all heard of "road rage," but I have never heard mention of "cycle rage."
6. Social Time - Riding in groups is not only safer, it is also more fun. The morning commute is a perfect time to dish out that X-Rated gossip too risky for the office water cooler. It is also far safer to ride and talk on the phone than it is to drive and talk on the phone - and lets face it we all do it at some point or another. I can even ride no handed, leaving my extremities free to dial numbers or even pick my nose (bugs end up in the most inconvenient places) if the need arises. For parents, bicycle accessories like child trailers also afford a safe and healthy way to take your kids to school, and it is much easier to talk and concentrate on riding than it is to talk and concentrate on driving. I should note that the old-school child seats that mount behind the seat or, heaven forbid, on the handlebars of a bike are a serious safety hazard and should not be used. Sure, most of us grew up with them, but we also grew up with asbestos and lead paint.
PART 2: The proper gear.
PART 3: Route planning. SEE ALSO: www.biketowork.com
SEE ALSO: www.bikesnotbombs.org
SEE ALSO: www.carsrcoffins.com
SEE ALSO: www.gobybicycle.com
SEE ALSO: www.carfree.com
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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