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Pedal Your Way to Work

Trading your car for your bike for all or part of your commute can save you cash, increase your fitness and help the environment. You may be surprised at how easy it can be.

Everyone who drives a car has been affected by the high cost of gasoline and the ever-increasing congestion on our country’s roads. Perhaps you’ve addressed the former by buying a car that gets good gas mileage, and the latter by carpooling or taking public transportation.

Here’s an additional solution: Consider commuting by bicycle. “Oh, I couldn’t possibly,” you say? Not so fast. Biking to work, at least part of the way or part of the time, offers a lot of benefits, according to the League of American Bicyclists:

  • Increased fitness and health. Ride your bike to work and you’ll be fit in no time. Plus, you’ll no longer need to make time before or after work to exercise.

  • More money in your pocket. Save on gas, tolls and parking.

  • A better environment. Automobiles produce toxic substances that pollute the ground, air and water.

  • More fun. Riding can make your commute enjoyable, especially if you can ride on back roads or bike lanes or with a friend.

You can do it

Just about any reason you can come up with for why you can’t bike to work can be overcome. Some of the most common include:

  • I’m out of shape. Practice easing into it by taking short local trips. By riding regularly at an easy pace, you’ll be in much better shape within a few weeks.

  • It’s too far. Then ride just part of the way, or part of the time. For example, drive to work with your bike, then ride home. The next day, ride to work and drive home. Or combine riding and mass transit by riding part way and taking the bus, train or subway the rest; check with your local mass transit authority to make sure bikes can be carried on. Or ride to a friend’s house and carpool the rest of the way.

  • I have to dress up. Take a spare set of work clothes on the days you drive and leave them at the office. Or roll up your work clothes and take them with you; change when you arrive.

  • There are no showers at work. It’s cooler in the morning, and riding at an easy pace in the right clothing should keep you from needing a shower. Alternately, check with a health club close to work about a shower-only membership.

Getting started

Obviously, the first thing you’ll need is a bicycle. Visit a local bike shop for a tune-up; a helmet if you don’t have one; cycling clothes and supplies, such as spare tire tubes and a portable tool kit; a saddlebag; a water bottle; and a bike-mount air pump. The shop’s employees also can offer help in planning safe routes and will make sure your bike fits properly and is in good repair.

You can visit http://www.mapquest.com and request directions from your home address to work. Once the directions come up, click on the “Avoid Highways” tab. This should give you the shortest route to work using side roads.

Rules of the road

Bicycles are vehicles and should be ridden and treated as such on the roadways. You must follow the same road rules as motorists.

Joining a local bicycling club is a great way to learn to ride safely and have fun while doing so. You’ll find lots of advice online, as well. The website of the League of American Bicyclists at http://www.bikeleague.org offers dozens of fact sheets to get you started.

When you commute by bike, you’ll improve your health and finances and maybe even your corner of the world.