Bike to Work Week/Cycling Summit highlights
There’s a machine that can improve a person’s health, reduce expenses and is better for the environment than most others. In fact, there are probably many of these contraptions tucked away in garages across the Miami Valley at this very moment. This human-powered machine was invented in the early 19th century, but its design hasn’t evolved much since. It’s a bicycle. Given Dayton’s massive infrastructure of paved bikeways, designated lanes and networks of side streets, it’s easier than ever to make the switch to biking as alternate transportation.
Bicycle commuting has many benefits. Most notably are the direct impacts on the cyclist.
“When you commute via bike, even if you just swap one short trip a week, you will immediately begin to enjoy benefits from improved health and savings on fuel,” said MetroParks Cycling Coordinator Dan Sahli. “If it’s been a while since you’ve ridden your bike, getting a ride in just once a week is a great way to get on track to a healthy lifestyle.”
Bike commuting doesn’t require months of intense training to hit the streets. In fact, health care experts at the Mayo Clinic emphasize the importance of exercise, even for those living with arthritis. According to their research, exercise, such as cycling, helps to strengthen muscles around joints, maintain joint strength, control weight – another factor in joint stress – and increase energy. “The more you ride, the easier it gets and the better you feel,” Sahli said. “Don’t think you have to hop on your bike and immediately take on Tour de France-type endeavors. Take baby steps.”
Even small trips add up at the pump over time. For instance, swap the bike for an errand to the bank two miles away instead of a car. If the car gets 20 miles per gallon, that once-a-week swap will save the cyclist save about $36 in a year (if gas prices were to remain steady at $3.45 per gallon).
The savings add up as fuel costs increase and parking fees and vehicle maintenance are added. Even for the bicycle commuting novice, a weekly four-mile round trip is a very attainable goal. Nearly 70 percent of Americans’ car trips are less than two miles long. A two-mile ride may take 12-15 minutes, so that 30-minute round-trip not only saves money at the pump, it counts toward the recommended thrice weekly half hour of exercise.
Additionally, long-term benefits can help save cities billions of dollars. In 2010, Environmental Health Perspectives published a University of Wisconsin study on the economic and health benefits of switching from a car to a bike for trips shorter than five miles in 11 metropolitan areas around the upper Midwest. Combining data on air pollution, medical costs, mortality rates, car accidents and physical fitness, the researchers found that if inhabitants of the sample region switched to bikes for half of their short trips, they’d create a net societal health benefit of $3.5 billion per year from the increase in air quality and $3.8 billion in savings from smaller health care costs associated with better fitness and fewer mortalities from a decreased rate of car accidents.
GET IN GEAR
Those who are interested in starting bicycle commuting will need some gear to get started. This short guide outlines some tools that will help facilitate commuting. Visit metroparks.org/cycling and click on the tab for “retailers” to find local bike shops and knowledgeable staff.
Technically speaking, anything with two wheels and a chain will get riders from point A to point B, but be aware that different styles of bicycles have different benefits. “Talk to your local bike retailer,” Sahli said. “Tell them what kinds of trips you make, the terrain you travel, frequency of your trips and other details about your riding habits. They’ll help you select a bicycle that meets your needs.” The same retailers can help give bikes a tune-up if they’ve been sitting in storage for a while.
Wearing a helmet is always a good idea. Some communities require wearing one, and it protects the head in case of an accident. Those who own a helmet but haven’t ridden in a while should give their helmet a visual inspection before heading out. Make sure there are no cracks. Even one crack compromises the protective value of a helmet. Helmets might need to be replaced if it’s been stored unused for a long period of time.
Regardless of whether the trip is around the corner or riding to work, cycling commuters will need something to store and carry items. For commuters riding to work or school, a backpack or messenger bag easily fits a laptop, maybe some extra clothes, lunch and other items needed throughout the day. Make certain the backpack or messenger bag can be secured to the rider’s back and doesn’t slide around to your front while riding.
For larger items, like grocery staples that may be heavier, consider getting a rack that fits on the back of the bike. Find panniers, which are placed over the rack, or go “old school” with a milk crate secured by bungee cables. For larger loads, consider purchasing a tow-behind trailer.
Moisture-wicking fabrics will keep you cool and dry on your trip. Avoid cotton materials as they absorb moisture and can cause unpleasant odor. You can find clothing options at any department or specialty store, or online.
BIKE TO WORK DAY PANCAKE BREAKFAST
7-9 a.m. Friday, May 17, RiverScape MetroPark, 111 E. Monument Ave.
Leave your car in the garage and support National Bike to Work Day. Ride in on your own or with a group to RiverScape MetroPark for a free pancake breakfast then head to work. Live music, cycling related exhibitors and team challenge are also part of the fun. Turn this one day into a lifestyle. No registration required; free. Details online at metroparks.org/biketowork.
FUNDAMENTALS OF COMMUTING
6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, 2nd Street Market, 600 E. Second St.
This class reviews what is involved to get you biking to work, a quick trip to the store, or a favorite restaurant. This lecture-style class will include bike terminology, commuting equipment, and trip and bike preparation. The class will briefly discuss traffic laws, hazards encountered, safe-riding skills and proper route planning. Registration required; $10. Register online at metroparks.org or by calling 937.277.4374.
Reach DCP freelance writer Valerie Beerbower at ValerieBeerbower@DaytonCityPaper.com