You already know that biking more can offer health benefits—including getting your body moving more with relatively low impact, increasing your heart rate, and getting you some fresh air.
You likely also know that biking (instead of driving a personal vehicle) can offer environmental benefits. Not only do you reduce emissions, especially if your car has an internal combustion engine, you also reduce wear on the roads, which means they’ll need to be repaired less often, and reduce the quantity of tire pollutants that enter your local waterways. You’ll be part of reducing noise pollution in the areas you live and bike through—which can help improve quality of life.
If enough people regularly bike, then planners have the opportunity to talk about infrastructure changes, such as adding more green spaces along roads (which can also help protect cyclists, if done with that intent) and reducing the number of parking spaces available, which could then be turned into pocket parks or even returned to the ecosystem. These decisions take time—and resources—but have major benefits for the natural spaces around you.
All of the benefits add up—but as a cyclist, I also know how intimidating it can be to get on the road with cars, especially in areas without traffic calming measures, where there aren’t protected bike lanes, where there isn’t bike infrastructure at all or where the bike infrastructure is fragmented, or where people just aren’t used to seeing cyclists sharing the road.
The good news is that more and more towns and cities are creating plans that will support more people biking, including improving bike infrastructure and offering greater protection to people on bikes through the creation of fully protected bike lanes. There are also an increasing number of groups who go out on critical mass-style rides, many of which are focused on leaving no one behind. These may be organized by cycling advocacy groups in your area, cycling clubs, bike shops, local colleges, or others.
Joining one of these rides can be a great way to help get yourself comfortable with biking. These groups may also offer lessons on road biking, sharing the road with cars, defensive cycling, and more that can help you feel more confident getting on your bike for commutes or recreation. These groups are also likely plugged into whatever planning is happening where you live to improve bike infrastructure—and as more people choose to bike, the need for that infrastructure is easier to justify.
Beyond the potential intimidation of sharing the road with cars, you may also be worried about things like showing up to work sweaty or out of breath, how you will fit cycling into the other demands / responsibilities of your day, or about where you’ll park your bike once you arrive. Those are real concerns—and will require some planning (and potentially a change of clothes). The specifics will, of course, depend on where you live. Again, local groups in your area will probably be best for answering your questions—or perhaps someone you know already regularly commutes to work or errands by bike and you can ask them what they do!
Bike to work day is coming up on May 19th—and if you have the option to bike to work, you might check it out, especially if you live in a city or town organizing events around this. In many places, sponsors will hand out free swag, food, and drinks to people who bike to work! On bike to work day, people who would not normally bike to work do—and that can help create a sense of solidarity. Let us know on social media if you decide to take part and why you decided to bike!