|The bike-to-work alternative: Save
money and stay fit
C. McCune Bankrate.com
As the days grow warmer and longer and gas prices
near $4 per gallon, many a driver's fancy turns toward commuting
to work by bicycle.
Although it's too soon for hard numbers, at least
anecdotal data show that more people are interested in exchanging
a driver's seat for a bike saddle. "We've been getting more
calls asking how
to do it," says Elizabeth Preston, communications director
for the League of American Bicyclists, a bicycle advocacy group
based in Washington, D.C.
Bicycle coordinators in the transportation departments
of cities such as Austin, Texas, and Madison, Wis., concur. "My
perception from ... talking to folks is that there has been an increase
(in riders)," says Colly Kreidler, bicycle program coordinator
for the city of Austin.
A bicyclist's motives
With it costing $40 or more to fill up a car's gas tank, cycling
commuters can save money and get fit in the process of getting to
work. "I burn 2,000 calories on my commute, so I get to eat
whatever I want," says Doug Warner, a summertime cycling commuter
in Bozeman, Mont.
For the past six years, the Missoula Bicycle/Pedestrian
Advisory Board in Montana has sponsored a "Pedal Versus Metal
Challenge" race in downtown Missoula in honor of National Bike
to Work Week in mid-May. Cyclists generally beat the motorists "pedals
down." In a recent contest, 68-year-old cyclist Ethel
MacDonald crossed the finish line in seventh place, beating all
but one motorist.
To ease traffic congestion, municipalities and state
governments are encouraging folks to pedal rather than drive. For
example, to better accommodate people who ride their bikes to the
subway stations, the Washington, D.C., Department of Transportation
is replacing about 640 bicycle racks at its Metro stations at a
cost of $200,000. Chicago has its Millennium Park Bicycle Station,
where cyclists can securely store bikes and even take a shower before
work. More than 80 percent of American cities surveyed in 2004 reportedly
planned to build new bikeways.
Many cities and towns are vying to be among the most
bicycle-friendly communities in the United States. The League of
American Bicyclists rates communities according to how friendly
they are to cyclists. Among the top-ranked cities are Portland, Ore., with a platinum designation; and Madison, Wis.,
and the Tucson, Ariz., metropolitan area, which
both received "gold" rankings.
Of course, there are disadvantages. While cycling can save travel
time, it can be harder to organize than driving. Cycling commuters
must devise good, safe routes to work, locate secure places for
their bikes and find ways to clean up after their rides to work.
|The bicyclist's wardrobe