If you have ever thought about becoming a bike commuter, there is no better time than the present. And you don't have to bike to work to become part of the respectable network of bike commuters; a bike commuter is simply someone who uses a bicycle for the purpose of personal transport - whether that be transport to work, school, the park, the grocery store, or even a friend's house or coffee shop. A bicycle is something most people have lying around the house, and contrary to popular belief, commuting by bike does not require you to have a top of the line touring/commuter bike; nearly any bike can be good enough to get you started. This means you don't have to sink a thousand dollars (or more) into what the guy at the bike shop will tell you is the appropriate bike for commuting. The important thing is that you enjoy the ride and are comfortable.
Statistics - the Bad
About 9 out of 10 (87.7%) American workers drive to work, and it's not because they simply love the thrill of gripping that steering wheel and hitting the pavement. A Pew Research Poll (Aug. 2006) shows that Americans enjoy driving less than they did in 1991, with only 69% of drivers saying they actually enjoy it as compared to 79% in 1991. That means that, on average, 3 out of every 10 cars you pass has a disgruntled driver controlling a 1-2 ton piece of metal at speeds in excess of 60 mph.
As noted by the Pew Research Report:
A National Household Travel Survey (April 2006) found that in 2001, for the first time since such studies have been conducted, there were more personal vehicles (204 million) than licensed drivers (191 million) in America. With all those cars, trucks, minivans and SUVs at their disposal, Americans have been making more trips and traveling more miles, thereby generating more of the very thing that has made them enjoy driving less: traffic jams. From 1991 to 2003, the amount of time per year that the typical American spent stuck in traffic grew by 56%, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Statistics - the Good
It is estimated that 40% of daily trips made by Americans are less than two miles long. Additionally, one in three Americans owns a bicycle.
There are many great reasons to use a bicycle as a means of everyday transportation:
- You can remember what it's like to be happy since you won't sit in traffic all day.
- You will get more exercise and fresh air.
- You save money on gas and car repairs.
- You pollute less.
But there are also a lot of barriers that people think are common problems with bike commuting:
- I'll be all sweaty when I get to work/my destination.
- I don't have a safe route to travel.
- I live too far from where I need to go.
- I am not a very good cyclist.
And the list could go on. We can always find excuses NOT to do something. But if there is anything I have learned it's that making the world a better place is not an event that will just happen on its own. If you need a refresher:
CoolPeopleCare exists to motivate and educate people in order to mobilize them to change their worlds.
Be on the lookout for a recurring series of "More Time on Your Hands" that will address the gear required to commute by bike, common misconceptions about bike commuting and, ideally, will help get you on the saddle (that's cyclo-speak for "seat") and start riding - whether it's to the coffee shop around the corner, or to your office 12 miles away.
About the Author:
Jeff Rossini lives and works in Phoenix, Arizona. He recently began an experiment of biking to work, 8.3 miles one way, every day for the month of August. Did we mention he lives in Phoenix? Jeff is blogging about the experience daily and you can read his anecdotes and tips for bike commuting at thevelorution.blogspot.com.