You rock, bicycle commuters! And today’s your special Day.
Today America reaffirms the unique power of the bicycle, the commitment of bicycle commuters, and the many reasons people choose to ride to their jobs. It also informs the business world, traditionally focused on cars, about another way to work. The League of American Bicyclists (formerly the League of American Wheelmen) has sponsored this traditional event for decades.
And please remember, if you missed out on cycling today, that May is designated Bicycle Month, offering you two more weeks to join the celebration!
About 85 million adults and children ride their bikes every year. For kids and teens, the bicycle offers more freedom and speed than proceeding on foot. Every morning, an estimated half million people in the United States get to work by bicycle.
To highlight the nation’s outstanding bicycle-friendly communities, hundreds of engineers, government officials, and bicycle advocates work with the bike league on a Bicycle Friendly America program that highlights outstanding bicycle-friendly communities. The organization updates its rankings annually. According to this year’s national list, four bike-friendly communities are standouts:
- Boulder CO,
- Davis CA,
- Fort Collins CO, and
- Portland OR.
Eighteen others have achieved the gold standard. The largest of these is San Francisco, with a population of about 750,000. Seattle, Tucson, Minneapolis, Madison, Scottsdale, Cambridge MA, and eleven smaller communities are in the group also.
In the next rank (silver) are over 50 locations. New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, each with millions of residents, belong to the silver group. So does Anchorage, Alaska, with almost 300,000 residents. Well over 100 other communities comprise the ranks of the bronze.
The best of those who choose to commute by bike keep in mind five basic principles:
- Follow the Rules of the Road,
- Be visible,
- Be predictable (ride steadily, use signals),
- Anticipate conflicts, and
- Wear a helmet always, reflectors and lights at night.
Benefits for people who bike to work
Hard to pin down the most important satisfaction of using a bicycle to get to and from work. It probably pleases some people for some reasons; others, for others. A few possibilities:
- It saves you money. Every time you don’t put the key in the starter lock (or on the button). At gas stations. At repair shops. At new car dealers. At used (“pre-owned”) car dealers. At “convenience” stores. Skipping out for lunch. On depreciation. Every single day.
It improves the commute and may save you time. It gets you up close and personal with nature.
- It’s good for your health–and not just muscles, but all the body systems. Cardiovascular. Respiratory. Digestive. Skeletal. Lymphatic. Glandular. Reproductive. Urinary. And nervous, maybe best of all. Feeds the brain.
It can be fun, sublime, or weather-challenged, but it will rarely bore or frustrate you as much as sitting in the driver’s seat waiting to get out of snarled traffic and reach your designated asphalt box.
Benefits for bike-friendly employers
Employees who exercise regularly have fewer sick days and lower health claims. They’re more alert and productive than sedentary workers, and probably happier as well. Fewer cars in the parking lot and more bike racks and lockers save corporate funds, often reduce work travel times and traffic congestion, reduce overall energy consumption, and provide strong environmental benefits as well.
Easy for companies to start a bicycle commuting program
First, know your numbers. Survey how people currently get to work. Eliminate any obstacles to cycling, and redesign space to include comparatively low-cost amenities such as bike lanes and graded curbs. (Bikes use about a tenth the parking space as automobile lots.) Finally, develop incentives for bicycling employees. Some companies give gift certificates, free meal bonuses, or health points or obtain equipment discounts for those who bike to work. Invest in a company bike fleet–much less costly than van pools or company cars. Partner with local cycling clubs. Promote your bike-to-work program company-wide through internal communications, special events and recreational rides, and human resource departments.
Are bicycles safe?
The U.S. Census tells us that the number of Americans commuting by bike increased by 47% in the decade of the 2000s. The National Household Travel Survey shows that the number of trips made by bicycle in the U.S. has grown by over 100% since 2000. Still, many people worry about the safety of riding bicycles, especially during commuter traffic. Bicycle injuries do occur, some requiring emergency.
About 77% of commuters drive to work. It’s hard to find specific numbers linking commuting injury and death, but overall the United States has almost 11 million motor vehicle accidents per year, and an overall death rate of 35.9 per thousand. Just under a third of these include other automobiles.
- Under 15% involve pedestrians.
- About half of one percent involve cyclists.
- Fewer than 1,000 cyclists die on the roads every year.
Five times as many people die from car accidents as from accidents on bikes.
BIKE COMMUTING RESOURCES
League of American Bicyclists. Oldest bicycling organization in the US. Promotes bicycling for fun, fitness, and transportation. Works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. Promoters of the Bike to Work initiative for decades. Offers materials and training courses to help you feel more secure about commuting by bike. The League’s Ride Better page has detailed the Rules of the Road and commuting tips to making riding fun and safe for all new and returning riders. Other resources include Commuter Tips, Ride Better Tips, Bicycle Maintenance, and Travel Policies for Cyclists.
Bike to Work. An all-commuting website sponsored by Shimano, outstanding bicycle component makers for 81 years. (The bicycle itself was only invented in 1885.) Features a comprehensive guide for new bike commuters, including pre-ride checklists, bike repair and maintenance tutorials, and more.
Bikes Belong. An organization founded by bicycle industry leaders. Its mission: to put more people on bicycles often. “We work to make bicycling better in America.” Bicycle clubs, manufacturers, commuting, bike-friendly transit, and more on this site.
National Bicycle Safety Network. A founding member of the Smart Growth Network, representing more than 30 national organizations.
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Founded to enrich America’s communities and countryside by creating a nationwide network of public trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors. Includes Urban Pathways Initiative.
National Center for Bicycling and Walking. Founded as the Bicycle Federation of America. Includes Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.
Don’t forget to check for regional, state, and local coalitions, too!
Award-winning science writer Sandy Dechert covers environmental, health, and energy issues. With John Dowlin, Ralph Hirsch, Bob Thomas, Nancy Drye, Bob Pierson, and Susan McInerney, she compiled the Greater Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition’s first handbook on cycle commuting. Sandy has also reported on fitness, auto, plane, ship, and train transportation and extreme weather disasters. She also detailed events and policy at last fall’s 18th UN climate change summit meeting in Doha, Qatar.
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