In the area that I live, this week is our annual “Bike to Work” week, where people all over the region are encouraged to ditch their vehicles and ride their bikes to work. This will be my third year participating. I think it’s fun to do, and it’s neat that the community has this week where this is encouraged and supported by local employers.
It got me thinking about whether biking to work should be more of an everyday thing, rather than only one week a year. I’m one of those people that likes the “idea” of riding my bike to work more than the actual practice of doing it. Here are some of my thoughts:
Advantages of Riding My Bike to Work:
- Saves Money: For starters, it saves money to ride my bike to work. However, it’s not a huge amount. I live approximately five miles from where I work and get about 18 miles per gallon driving around town. At this morning’s gas prices of around $3.75 a gallon, it costs me 21 cents per mile in gas to drive to work. I can also factor in an additional 4 cents a mile for depreciation and pro-rated maintenance costs, bringing the total to 25 cents a mile. The total round trip to work and back each day costs $2.50. Riding my bike is essentially free, since I already have a bike and helmet.
- Good Exercise: I know that riding my bike to work and back is a good exercise opportunity, which is a good thing. I typically do not actively exercise a whole lot. However, I work on the 4th floor of our building and only take the stairs, and my wife and I take our son and dog on a walk every evening. We also take a few evening bike rides a week. In other words, the extra exercise from biking to work would be good, but I wouldn’t say that I “need” it. I’m in great health and have a healthy BMI, cholesterol level, etc.
- Environmentally Friendly: I know that riding my bike instead of driving is good for the environment. It means one less car on the road and a smaller amount of emissions into the atmosphere. Additionally, I don’t know if using less gasoline counts as helping the environment, but I think it probably does. It means less oil drilled and less refinery activity required (albeit a super tiny amount less).
Disadvantages of Riding My Bike to Work:
- Takes More Time: This is the big one. When I drive to work and back, it typically takes me 15 minutes to get there. When I ride my bike, the time requirement goes up pretty significantly. The ride to work in the morning is pretty much downhill the entire way and takes me around 30 minutes. Part of the time increase is so I can take a leisurely pace and not arrive to work sweaty and smelly (no one wants that). To offset that, the ride home in the evening is pretty much uphill the entire way and takes me close to an hour. So, riding my bike takes a total of 1 hour and 30 minutes versus only 30 minutes driving. In addition to the actual riding time, riding my bike means I have to get up earlier in the morning, as well as taking the time the night before to make sure everything is packed so I can change clothes when I get to work.
- Weather Conditions: Riding to work in the morning is not bad at all. It’s usually pretty cool in the morning, and I can take a nice leisurely pace. However, by the time I get off work, it can be quite hot and humid. And, as I mentioned before, the ride home is uphill. So, by the time I get home I am tired and sweaty. There’s also the risk of rain, though my general rule is to check the weather the night before first. If there’s a 30% chance of rain or higher, I drive. The last thing I want is to get caught riding my bike to work in the rain.
- Risk of an Accident: The city I live in is not very bike-friendly. I’m not sure on this, but it seems like every year we hear of at least one fairly major accident where someone on a bike injured from being hit by a car. I know last year someone died. A lot of this can be prevented by following traffic rules and just being aware as you ride. When I bike to work, I take a lot of side streets as well to avoid heavy traffic. But still, I have a one year old son at home. I don’t want to get hit by a car while riding my bike.
The Bottom Line:
After running through my life of advantages and disadvantages, I think I’m still at the same place I have been. I’m good with riding my bike to work during our annual “Bike to Work” week, but not much more than that. It would save some money to bike more, but it takes a lot more time and our city isn’t bike-friendly enough that I don’t have to worry about crazy drivers hitting me.
Do any of you have any experiences (positive or negative) with riding your bike to work? Share your story in the comments…