Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bike Commuting 101 - Part 2 (Why Bike Commuting)

Before anyone starts bike commuting they should make an assessment of what they hope to achieve by riding a bike to work instead of a car. You will also need to consider lifestyle, location, and other transportation duties (bringing kids to school, work errands, mid-day appointments) that may prevent you from considering bike commuting on certain days. If you think creatively, you can find ways around many situations that at first glance may appear to disqualify you from being able to commute by bike. Many people write off bike commuting due to work clothing and hygiene considerations, but there are ways around that problem mentioned below.

Some reasons for bike commuting would include: improved health, enjoying nature, time to think and be away from distractions, stress reduction, respect from coworkers, reduced transportation/parking expenses, remove necessity/cost of gym memberships, challenge yourself, it can be faster than commuting by car, conversational item in social situations.

We all know that transportation expenses can get pretty high, what with rising fuel prices, insurance, vehicle maintenance, parking expenses. Bike commuting can reduce some, if not all of those, but don’t bank on any immediate savings when you start bike commuting. Few bike commuters end up getting rid of their gas consuming vehicles. Some people, however, don’t own a car and use public transit. These people might notice a more immediate payoff with bike commuting. But for the rest of us, the expenses of getting started in bike commuting will probably offset any savings in gas or car maintenance in the near term.

Health benefits and stress reduction are probably the first benefits you will notice. You’ll also get the occasional “your crazy” or “wow, I’m impressed” comments from coworkers. Those comments can be fairly gratifying in themselves. Many people mention feeling more awake and ready to face the day when they bike into work. Some studies show that a person that bikes to work will be more productive at work (on average) than a person that drives to work.

Is there a down side? Yes, there are a few negatives associated with bike commuting. You’ll have to plan ahead to make sure you have the right clothes ready. Short commutes (1 to 2 miles) probably mean you can just wear your work clothes on the bike, but long commutes (10 or more miles) might require specific riding apparel and a change of clothes at work. Riding in bad weather may also require different clothing. But most people that just begin bike commuting might just want to avoid the bad weather days at first. Some initial discomfort in the backside (your posterior) is almost unavoidable when you first start bike commuting if you have not been riding a bike much lately. This goes away in a few weeks. Riding in traffic can also be a bit disconcerting at first but over time it becomes more comfortable. Finding a low traffic route to work can make bike commuting much more enjoyable. It can also be a great way to learn your city and find all those amazing places that you would never see driving along the major roadways.

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