I need motivation—especially on cold mornings. I thank my lucky stars that I have a sufficiently-motivated co-worker who lives right down the road from me. She is my biking partner and helps me drag my sleepy 200+ lbs. out of bed in the morning. We bicycle the 12 miles to work most days throughout the Spring, Summer, and Fall. (OK! We haven’t started yet this year. But we’re gonna!)
I know myself well enough to know that I’m not capable of sustaining months of motivation for biking to work on my own. I figure it might be the same for some of you. So I’ve decided to supply some of that motivation with a snappy headline, a possibly too-familiar image, and this treatise from Rory McMullan, author of Biking to Work, about why you should get off your fat ass and bike to work. (Though, Rory says it much more nicely than I do.)
The following is an excerpt from Biking to Work. It has been adapted for the web. Feel free to repost.
If you are thinking “I can’t bike, I live too far from work, I don’t want to breathe polluted air, I’m too old, I don’t want to get hot and sweaty, I’m unfit . . .” this book just might change your mind.
You’re better off by bike!
Biking keeps you healthy and makes you feel better Regular exercise helps people feel better; studies show that cyclists are absent fewer days and are more productive at work. On average, regular cyclists:
- add over 2 years to their life expectancy
- have the general fitness and health of someone 10 years younger
- are 50% less likely to experience depression
Doctors advise a minimum of 30 minutes moderate exercise a day to keep fit; if you feel unfit, start slowly and work your way up to longer journeys—you will soon gain confidence and fitness. Don’t drive to the gym—bike to work!
Biking means a less polluted journey
Research shows that car occupants are exposed to 2–3 times the level of pollution of cyclists.
Cyclists ride up above the most polluted air. Car traffic produces a cocktail of noxious gases that are linked to cancer and respiratory diseases, and you are actually most at risk from air pollution when driving in heavy traffic, as the ventilation system sucks in the emissions from the exhaust of the vehicle in front.
Biking helps you lose weight
Although our calorie intake has hardly risen in the past 30 years, over 60% of us are either overweight or obese; this is almost entirely due to reduced levels of exercise, which have fallen dramatically with the rise in car use and the parallel fall in walking and bike riding.
Losing weight is often seen as the best way to improve selfconfidence, whereas fad diets often only work in the short term; cycling not only burns the calories—it is also good for your health and general sense of well-being.
Biking at a moderate pace of about 10 miles per hour burns on average 400 calories per hour for women and 450 per hour for men—about the same as an aerobics session.
Biking saves you money
The AAA estimates that the average car costs 52¢ per mile to run; and cyclists don’t need to feed parking meters or pay to park in a garage or parking lot.
Compare the costs of running a car or monthly parking fees with the $500 it costs to buy a good-quality bike and equipment, which will last you three or more years; you can easily see how much money biking to work will save you, even if you only use your bike for part of the journey.
You don’t have to sell the car to start cycling (most regular cyclists are also motorists), but a bike can often replace one car in a twocar family. If you live in a major city with good public transportation
you might not need a car at all, as a bicycle can be faster and more convenient.
Biking is quicker and offers more flexibility
Cyclists are the most punctual of all employees: traffic jams do not affect them, neither do train delays. Even if you don’t get snarled up in a traffic jam, parking a car can be a nightmare, whereas a bicycle can usually be parked right outside your workplace.
Speed and reliability are the reasons why urgent deliveries are made by bicycle messengers in the world’s busiest cities.
The roads of major cities and towns are almost at gridlock during rush hour; average speeds have hardly risen since 1900, and in some cases have fallen. Because a bicycle is incredibly space-efficient, if we can convert unnecessary car trips to bike trips, then our congestion levels will fall.
Biking is cool
Over the past 50 years riding a bicycle has received bad press: it was the forgotten mode of transportation, the car was king, everybody who didn’t have a car was perceived to be poor, and people felt defined by the car they drove. But things are changing; these days mobile phones, Blackberrys, and iPods are the most important accessories for the image-conscious, and biking is becoming part of this new fashion. Cycling, and the healthy, environmentally friendly lifestyle it represents, is now used to advertise mobile phones, laptops, cameras, and, ironically, cars.
Boasting about how quickly you get to work takes on a whole new dimension when you ride a bike. Cyclists spend less on transportation but on average earn more than the average income; a typical cyclist is a rich, healthy, image-conscious professional; no wonder that high-profile politicians and presidents of global corporations want to be seen biking to work.
Editor’s Mass-media-style Marketing Plea: Sexy blond people do it! You should too. See?!
Biking is enjoyable
Biking can beat driving for pure enjoyment; in the past few years local authorities in many urban areas have invested heavily in bicycle lanes, many of which go through lovely areas like parks, or along rivers.
Biking helps to combat climate change
Transportation accounts for over 20% of CO2 emissions, more than half of which comes from private cars.
Many scientific studies have shown global warming and climate change to be real, and it is now fully accepted by governments worldwide that we have a pressing problem. The Stern Report, commissioned by Britain’s Treasury Department, estimates that we have to cut our emissions by 60% in the next 30 years to save us from the worst consequences of climate change. Biking to work is not going to solve climate change on its own, but it is part of the solution.
Climate change and the end of the oil age are challenges of immense proportions, but we can help to solve these huge problems by making many small changes in the way we live. We have to start making these changes now; biking more and driving less is one of the easiest and most enjoyable.
There is no doubt that cars provide fast, comfortable, and flexible personal transportation and have a valuable place in our transportation system, but their sheer popularity causes serious environmental problems. Changing from a car to a bike, even for just some of your journeys, will help improve the environment in which we live and work.
Our public spaces
If we could convert many unnecessary car trips to bicycle trips there would be a lot fewer cars on the streets, making more room for quality public space in our towns. Bicycles are not only the most energy-efficient transportation machine that humankind has invented, they are also among the most space-efficient.
In metropolitan areas space is at a premium, and a car-based transportation system needs a lot of space. The average car uses approximately four times the space of the average home: this includes parking spaces at the home, workplace, shopping center, supermarket, and town center; and these parking spaces are on average only occupied about 20% of the time!
Cars need a lot of road space. Road capacity is designed for rush hour, so although city streets may not be busy at midnight, during peak times congestion is a major problem, which is not only inefficient in time but also in fuel.
Bicycles take up less than 20% of the space of a moving car, and a comparatively tiny amount of parking space—a folding bike uses even less. If we convert just a few trips from car to bike, especially during rush hour, some of the space that was used for cars can be turned into quality public space for community recreation.
Air and noise pollution
Reducing the amount of cars in our cities will improve the air quality. Traffic noise causes stress, and in big cities there is almost no escape; but with fewer car trips and more bicycle trips we can have quieter, cleaner urban environments.
If each one of us gets on our bike we will reduce the number of cars on the roads, making a safer environment for the community and reducing the risk of accidents.
On average, 45,000 people die in car accidents in the United States every year.