Who’s got two thumbs and can help save the world while saving some dough and burning calories? This girl! And that guy, and that girl, and that girl, and especially that polydactyl guy. That’s right, anyone can accomplish this earth-friendly laundry list simply by biking to work. Celebrate your two-wheeled liberation on Friday, May 18, with a free pancake breakfast at RiverScape MetroPark, compliments of your outdoorsy pals at Five Rivers MetroParks.
Since gaining status as a bronze-level bike-friendly berg, Dayton’s cycling population has grown. New initiatives include the City of Dayton’s program that will place 100 new bike racks in strategic downtown locations. Following in the footsteps of other cities that have proven the “if-you-build-it-they-will-come” strategy is effective, the bike racks should provide ample parking to some of downtown’s coolest spots. Bonus—no more circling the block like a parking space vulture or endless see-sawing as you attempt to squeeze your four-door sedan into a parallel spot that could barely accommodate the recently vacated Geo Metro.
Besides ample parking right next to your destination, swapping your car for the bike has myriad benefits. Let’s talk economics. Let’s say you fill your 14-gallon tank once every two weeks. If gas prices were to stay at a reasonable $3.50 per gallon (maybe there’s no turmoil in the Middle East because everyone went on vacation?), you spend about $1,274 a year on gas. Reduce that cost by putting your foot to the pedal instead of the pedal to the metal. Studies show us that 25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within 2 miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes 5 miles or less to work—yet 82 percent of these trips made that are 5 miles or less are made by motor vehicle!
What if you used a bike for those short trips? Even if you start small—one trip 2 miles away or less once a week for a year—you can still save some money. In my beautiful hypothetical world where gas prices hover at $3.50, you could save about $50 a year! If this doesn’t seem like a lot of money to you, please send all your extra cash my way because I’d love an extra $50 a year. I’d stop in the middle of the street to pick up a quarter!
If the wallet surplus isn’t enough motivation, how about the health aspect? Steady cycling burns approximately 300 calories per hour. If you cycle for 30 minutes every day you would burn 11 pounds of fat in a year. (This solves the mystery of how those bike commuters pack away thousands of flapjacks at our bike to work event every year and manage to avoid stretching out their spandex.) Bad knees you say? Pish posh! The Mayo Clinic suggests adding exercise like cycling to increase your mobility if you suffer from arthritis or other types of joint pain. Any way you slice it, using your bike is beneficial.
What? Being rich and fit don’t rank high on your personal goals? What if I told you cycling could make the world a better place? Recent studies reveal big payouts for bike-friendly cities. Researchers reviewed the effects of using a bike instead of a car in 11 different cities around the upper Midwest. Combining data on air quality, medical costs, mortality rates, car accidents and physical fitness, the research team discovered that if residents of the sample cities used bikes for just half of their short trips (less than 5 miles), they’d create a net societal health benefit of $3.5 billion annually from reduced air pollution, and net $3.8 billion in health care savings from those Midwest denizens being so trim.
Of course because this is a Five Rivers MetroParks initiative, there is another ecological angle here. Those who drive 5 miles to work daily produce roughly 1860 pounds of greenhouse gases (CO2) into the atmosphere each year. It would take 133 fully matured trees per year to absorb those yearly emissions. Think about that for a second. Imagine planting 133 trees for your car alone. Now think about how many of your fellow commuters you see each day. We need another 133 trees to off-set the carbon from all those vehicles, and unless we’re willing to grow trees on a Cambrian-era level, we’re going to have to find ways to reduce our pollution.
If you think you have what it takes to start bike commuting but you’re not confident enough in your skills to make it to this Friday’s pancake breakfast, try taking the bike commuting class from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 23. This program will include bike terminology, commuting equipment and trip and bike preparation. You’ll also get an overview of traffic laws, potential hazards, safe-riding skills and proper route planning.
Use the bike instead of the car. Start small—commute one short trip once a week and see how you like it. Uneasy about traffic rules? Check out the monthly Courteous Mass rides. This group-led ride will orient you to the rules of the road (Rule #1: Bikes are recognized as “vehicles” in the eyes of the law, so not only is it your right to ride on the road, it’s your legal obligation) in a safe environment. The group meets around 5:30 p.m. at Fifth Third Field on the first Friday of each month. Get in gear for your health, your finances and the environment!