Monday, September 20, 2010

TWO-WHEEL OUT YOUR DOOR AND ENJOY THE RIDE.

There are a lot of advantages of biking on a regular basis. And, just about anyone at any age, youth or adult, can get a lot of personal benefits from biking. Nearly half of daily trips by American adults cover less than 3 miles. That’s an easy distance for even moderately healthy people to pedal, so the bike should be able to replace many car trips, depending, of course, on the weather and the traffic conditions.

To mention just a few of the benefits, bike riding is cheap, friendly for the environment, and fun. While cars get into terrible jams, bikes stay mobile and can be ridden to get around the worst traffic. What’s more, bicycling benefits society as well as individuals. The more people who bike the fewer cars are on the road, and that helps reduce traffic congestion and carbon-based emissions and saves our local governments money for road repair.

Your two-wheeler also offers you some real health perks. A long-term study of over 30,000 people in Amsterdam showed that regular bike commuters had greater health benefits (40% less risk of death) than those who regularly did other types of exercise, including high intensity sports. And that makes sense, because commuting is a moderate, every day activity while sports and going to the gym are usually done only a few days a week.

Those are just some of the reasons that bicycles are the most used form of transportation in the world (that’s about 1.4 billion bicycles to only about 400 million cars). Other eco-friendly pluses from two-wheeling include the possibility of using the bike for transport businesses (package delivery and bike-taxis), bicycle-powered water pumps, and even generating electricity.

Most of all, the automobile is expensive, and cycling is the only real alternative to cars for short commutes and errand trips. According to one expert study, the average American car-owner can expect to pay a lifetime total of about $300,000 for cars and related car expenses. But that estimate is based on past experience and doesn’t take into consideration rising fuel prices and higher costs for future vehicles. And, just think, bikes mean no circling the block looking for parking spaces and no parking tickets or towing fines. Best of all, you can expect to pay hundreds of dollars (not several hundred thousand dollars) for your bike costs over a lifetime!

Get wheeling!
So, if you’ve got a bike in your garage or basement or have been thinking about buying one, this is the right moment.

If your bike’s been sitting somewhere a long time, get it out and examine its condition. Does it obviously need maintenance? If it does, don’t take it out until you sure it’s running safely and comfortably. If you see something that needs fixing, visit your local bike shop. Get it right at first before you start wheeling around and continue giving your bike periodic tune-ups as needed. It will last a lot longer that way and be a safer means of transport. Hey, with a little study and effort, you can learn to do most of the maintenance yourself.

If you don’t have a bicycle, most new ones cost in the range of $100 to $200. But you’ll save a lot of money and be even eco-friendlier if you buy a used bike. So, stop by your local bicycle shop, cruise thrift shops and yard sales, or take a look at the classifieds in the newspaper. There are also some online sources for used bikes such as "Craigslist" and "Freecycle".

What more do you need to get started?
While biking sounds great for many reasons, still many people are hesitant to start out. And, the main reason most people aren’t riding bikes right now isn't lack of interest or low levels of physical fitness - it’s fear. Most of us are afraid of taking a spill or getting hit by a car.

So, how can we feel (and be more) safe while two-wheeling? First, always use the bike helmet and be properly dressed (closed, tie-up shoes, arms and legs covered), so that a minor bike accident stays minor – without any major consequences. Then, study city maps to find out where there are bike paths and protected lanes – and avail yourself of them whenever possible! Also, you probably have the option of biking on the sidewalk. That may be your safest bet in high traffic areas. And, if you’re wheeling on the sidewalk, you should cross streets by getting off your bike and walking with the light (or cautiously waiting at the corner) the same as pedestrians are supposed to do. Don’t forget to use bike lights and reflectors if you’re going to be biking at night or at dusk.

Also, petition your city and county government for more bike paths and protected lanes and show enthusiasm by supporting community bike rallies. Experience in cities around the world show that two-wheeling tends to be safer when more people are biking. The accident rate actually goes down because more car drivers become bike-aware and start driving better around bicyclists.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My carbon footprint is always second hand. The Goodwill is a great place to buy a bike. They pay the people they hire a living wage, even medical insurance.
Most everything I own came from the Good Will or St. Vincent De Paul. I bought a great bike for my grandson in a yard sale for $5.00.
Trouble with our plan is that the car companies may suffer more than they are if bicycles catch on as THE method of transportation.