Between 2000-2013, commuting via bicycle increased by 62 percent. The biggest increases were found in bicycle-friendly communities, which saw commuting rise by 105 percent. Although this is a good trend, it would be great to see even more people using bicycles to get to work. There are so many benefits to bike riding.
To take a page out of James Corden’s book, if you’re thinking of biking to work, you should know that there are side effects, and those side effects may include…
Saving money. The cost of gas keeps rising. According to AAA, the cost of owning a car is more than $8,600 a year for a midsize sedan and $10,250 for a sport utility vehicle. A bike, on the other hand, costs about $300 a year. If you didn’t own that car, think of all the money that you would save. If you’re disciplined, you could sock that money away for the future and have the cost of a new car with all the bells and whistles in just a few years.
Getting a workout without the gym. In addition to saving money on car costs, you’ll also save money on a gym membership. Who needs to go to the gym for cycling class when you’re cycling to and from work? You won’t have to worry about how to fit it in your schedule or whether you’ll feel motivated to go to the gym. Instead, you’ll have that push to exercise each day you have to work.
Becoming more fit and losing weight. On average, commuters lose about 13 pounds during their first year of cycling. It’s a great way to work out your heart, and cycling is easier on the joints than running. That makes it a perfect option for someone who is overweight and out of shape.
Saving money on health care costs. Along with helping you to be healthier, you’ll find that your health care costs will go down. You are less likely to need a doctor, get sick, or have heart problems because of your daily exercise and the benefits that come from this. Even if you don’t see a doctor very often right now, cycling will help you stay healthy and feeling young.
Avoiding traffic jams. If you live in an area that is congested during morning and evening commute times, you won’t have to worry about it when you’re riding your bike. You can whiz by all the motorists as they sit in their cars and drum their thumbs on the steering wheel. Depending on how bad traffic is and how far away from work you live, you might find your commute to be faster when you ride a bike.
Increasing your happiness level and decreasing stress and anxiety. This is true about any exercise that requires a good amount of effort, which means riding your bike each day will help you to release any pent-up tension or stress. This, in turn, leads to lower levels of depression and improved sleep. Plus, you’ll feel more confident and in a better mood overall.
Getting a reimbursement from the government. U.S. riders who bike to work at least three days a week receive a $20 tax-free reimbursement each month. Expenses that can be reimbursed include bike repairs and storage costs.
Breathing cleaner air. Even though you’re inside your car, studies have found that you’re more likely to breathe harmful air and volatile organic compounds inside a car than when riding a bike. This is especially true for those stuck in traffic where drivers are sitting right behind another car’s tailpipe.
Not needing to find a parking space. This applies mostly to commuters in large cities, but many commuters have a hard time finding places to park. Businesses in New York City are required to provide bike storage. There’s also the option of using a strong bike lock to park your bike in a rack or chain it to a pole. There are even folding bikes that can be put in a bag and then brought into your office, where you can stash it under a desk or in a closet.
Increasing your cognitive skills. It’s been found that daily exercise can help prevent cognitive decline and sharpen memory and learning. If these things are important to you, bicycling to work is a great way to help keep your mind and body sharp as you get older.
Not having to own a bike. If you live in a big city, bike-sharing programs are a continuing to expand. This is convenient because, with a monthly or annual fee, you can get a bike whenever you need one. Just grab one in one part of the city and return it to another area. It means that you always have a bike when you need one, and you don’t need to worry about storage or dealing with upkeep or repairs. Cities with bike-sharing programs include Boston, New York City, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.
Increasing awareness for bicyclists. Having more cyclists on the road means it’s safer for everyone else. The more bicyclists there are, the more they’re expected and seen, and the less likely there will be an accident. Plus, if the city you live in starts to notice more and more cyclists on the streets, it will be more inclined to increase the number of bike lanes and other biking infrastructure to encourage riders.
Helping make the air better air for everyone. The more people that cycle to work instead of driving, the fewer carbon emissions that go into the air. Where cars release an average of 1.2 pounds of CO2 per mile, cyclists only release 0.7 grams due to sweat.
Not having to be “all in.” When you first try out commuting to work on a bike, you don’t have to commit to doing it every workday for the rest of your life. Knowing this helps reduce anxiety and helps you ease into it. Maybe start by driving part way to work and then riding your bike the rest of the way. Start with just one or two days a week. There’s no pressure to do it all at once. It takes some getting used to, and you’re more likely to be successful if you give it time.
Being able to mix public transportation with riding a bike. If you live too far away to ride your bike all the way to work, consider combining the commute with public transportation. Public buses have bicycle racks in the front, and you can bring bikes on New York subways. If that doesn’t work, you could also consider an e-bike, which combines electric power with pedaling to help you go faster and reduce your commute time.
Feeling a sense of freedom. There is nothing more glorious than the feeling of being free. When you get on a bike and go zipping down the road, that’s what you’ll feel like — free.
Photo by Lauren Kallen