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Posts tagged with bicycling

My task in the Bike to Work Challenge is to infect others with the love of bike commuting since I already do it—and have been doing it for years!

After college, I moved from Athens, Ga. to Washington D.C. to intern for my senator and I had heard that you absolutely didn't want to bring a car. The drain on your bank account, (mind you interns don’t even get paid), would bankrupt you in no time: gas, insurance, paying for parking, parking tickets...just pure hassle. I had biked in college and I didn't own a car anyway, so I embraced the advice and bought a monthly subway pass. Soon after, friends in my ultimate Frisbee circle talked me into bike commuting as an alternative to the subway. I was sold.

I had actually taken cycling as a course in college, so I was a trained rider, but I was also mentored by veteran D.C. bike messengers who showed me how to ride, safely and assertively.

Soon after my internship, I landed my first job with McKinsey & Co. and I knew bike commuting was meant to be. My company subsidized our commutes with monthly transit fare cards and even put in showers at the office. Back then, I suited up daily, so I preferred riding gear, a shower, and a change to start the day. Now I’m much more streamlined and ride dressed for work each day.

After a short stint of biking to work when I took a job in San Francisco, my second career landed me back in Athens, Ga. I knew that as an undergrad, Athens had been bike friendly—even back in the late 80's—so I returned and bought a house within a two-mile radius of downtown where I worked and continued commuting by bike every day with an occasional ride on transit when there was inclement weather. Although it was a bike friendly city when I was in school, I was pleased to find out that Athens continued to make progress by adding bike lanes, greenways and even bike racks on buses!

It might look as if commuting is all about economics for me—and sure it was when I was a lowly intern with no salary—but it became a way of life, a great way to set the tone for my day and arrive at work without road rage. I also enjoy doing my part to reduce emissions.

Today I find myself working in the transportation industry in Griffin, Ga. and I’m still biking to work. As I enter the fifth decade of my life, I’m stoked to keep moving and happy to have logged thousands of miles all over the planet, both to work and on vacation. It’s really become a way of life for me and a great one. I urge you to give it a try!

For those interested in getting started, I’d be happy to show you my gear, route, and wardrobe. In fact you can check out pictures on my Facebook page to see what I wear and even get a few tips (I like to share). Oh and for those who love pictures I have posted a photo essay of the graffiti/murals on my cycling route to work when I lived in Athens.

If you like taking photos, you can share and even get points in the Bike to Work Challenge by posting photos on The Clean Air Campaign’s Bike to Work Photo contest page on Facebook.

Tracie Sanchez, MPA, is a mobility manager for the Three Rivers Regional Commission in Griffin, Ga.

Riding a bicycle has not always been part and parcel of my life. Growing up in the suburbs of Atlanta I definitely was raised on our American "car culture." I believed that having a car was as necessary to living in the modern world as electricity or the telephone. It wasn’t until I had car troubles and was faced with the prospect of a bill I couldn’t afford that I thought of using a bicycle to commute.

The change to bicycle commuter wasn’t overnight. It took a couple of years before I finally gave up my clunky, unreliable car. But now that I do ride my bicycle, and occasionally MARTA, to the exclusion of my own vehicle, I cannot fathom I’ll ever go back. The costs and plain hassle of automobile ownership are never fully realized until you don’t deal with them. You are at the whim of market forces when you fill up your tank. You are taxed every year directly by the state and indirectly by a myriad of parking and moving violations that few drivers are able to escape year in and year out. You need to worry about where to park it and if the car and its contents are safe. You need to maintain it, which takes time and money whether you do it yourself or pay someone to do it for you. You need to have insurance to protect your investment. You need to worry about the other drivers on the road. You have to replace it at great cost to yourself every 15 years or so, sooner if you believe the car is a symbol of status rather than a simple mode of transportation. Adding it all up, few people realize how much time and effort are expended and how much freedom is given up for the “freedom” of driving.

Cycling to and from work is easier than most think. Depending on the day I might have to cycle anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour to get where I need to go, but I don’t think that’s much different from most people in Atlanta who commute. I am never stuck in traffic, never have a day where I skip exercise, never have a mechanical problem that can’t be fixed with a small tool in my book bag and get to enjoy every sunny day.

While I cannot imagine everyone going as far as I have in giving up their car completely, I’m sure if people tried it just once or twice a week they would discover how much freedom they really have when they don’t need to drive.

What's good for your wallet, your safety and the environment is also good for your well-being. What is clean commuting doing for the physical and mental health of Georgians?

1. Shrinking Waistlines
We're starting to see more stories come in lately from commuters who have found they can turn their commutes into workout regimens, shedding pounds and improving their physical health. It's a timely topic given the ongoing discussion about healthcare and the fact that Georgia ranks 14th in obesity among adults (and 3rd for children).

But for the die-hard bicycle commuters and the folks who strap on their walking shoes, it seems to go deeper. One walking commuter tells us she's lost 70 pounds via her daily stroll to the office, and in the process her first choice now is always to walk when practical. And a bicycling commuter describes how he "went from 250 lbs (heaviest) to 185 lbs on a 6' 2" body frame. My doctor says my health report looks like that of an athlete." Another rider tells us bicycling to work "allows me to take in the beauty of the city that sometimes we overlook as we hurriedly rush by in our cars. It also allows me time to plan out my day and get energized before I hit the office."

Employers and property managers are increasingly responding to the needs of their bicycling and walking employees, too, through programs like Commuter Choice and with deals arranged via nearby fitness clubs to provide access to showers. RideSmart even makes a "Bike Buddy" service available to help bicycling commuters in Atlanta find riding partners.

2. Expanding Minds
Commuting and wellness can be about brains just as much as it can be about braun. We explored in the last post the many reasons drive-alone commuters shouldn't try to think about anything other than the task at hand when they're driving. But many commuters are stretching their thinking and getting tasks done when they get to ride along in the passenger seat. A carpooler recently described all the things she accomplishes on her ride: grocery list, Sudoku puzzle, view news on her mobile phone, read books, etc. What activities do you do from the passenger seat to wake up your synapses and neurons?

The Clean Air Schools program is also broadening the minds of thousands of Georgia students in elementary, middle and high schools with a new and expanded library of about three-dozen air quality lesson plans. With emphasis on science, social studies, math and geography, these new resources could not arrive at a better time, as Georgia educators must work harder to make ends meet.

3. Helping Us All Breathe Easier
Fortunately for those living in metro ATL - the 9th worst city for asthmatics - this year's smog season has been among the most forgiving since 2005 (so far ... knock on wood). However, new studies are finding that long-term exposure to ground-level ozone can affect lifespan, trigger asthma attacks in children (apparently, traffic and stressed out parents have a lot to do with it) and even impact brain development in babies.

It's encouraging to see more schools in Georgia become part of the No-Idling program offered through The Clean Air Campaign's Clean Air Schools initiative as the new school year kicks off. This program, now in it's second year of support from The UPS Foundation, boasts more than 100 participating schools who are working to reduce air pollution on campus by encouraging bus drivers and parents to shut off their engines while waiting to pick up students.

Do you clean commute for the health benefits? Tell us how using alternatives to driving alone has improved your body and mind.

Georgia has just about all the amenities an outdoor enthusiast could want. Rivers and creeks to navigate by kayak. Hiking trails and varied terrain to negotiate on foot. For the adventurous, hang gliding near Lookout Mountain. But when it comes to commuting, there's one mode of travel that has effectively merged our appreciation for being outdoors with our need to get to work: riding a bicycle.

Bicycling is no longer just for weekend warriors. In fact, more than 80,000 commute trips were logged in 2008 by bicycle commuters participating in The Clean Air Campaign's incentive programs. Looking back over a three-year period in Georgia, that number has doubled, which tells us there's a sizable group of bicycle commuters with a passion for pedaling their way to their jobs. In fact, The Clean Air Campaign's executive director has been known to bike to the office every now and then. What he and others have figured out is that they can trade a little sweat equity for the freedom of being able to ride unabated through gridlock and not have to scavenge for parking. Everyone benefits from having one less car on the road, which means less air pollution. And if it wasn't fun, commuters wouldn't do it.

Other groups are starting to take note of the rising bicycle commuter trend:

  • More office buildings are weighing options for bike racks and shower facilities.
  • The federal government, through 2009 stimulus legislation, is even offering a $20 per month tax credit for bicycle commuters (though it is still unclear at this early stage how the commuter or the employer can file this deduction).
  • RideSmart launched a program in 2008 called Bike Buddy to help pair together groups of bicycle commuters who ride similar routes for safety.

Coming up in mid-May, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition is teaming up with several area partners, including local Transportation Management Associations (TMAs) and The Clean Air Campaign, to promote a week's worth of events leading up to Bike to Work Day on Thursday, May 14. Bicycle commuters will be able to refuel with refreshments in areas throughout town, get information on bike routes and confident city cycling classes at a tabling event set to take place in Woodruff Park and celebrate all things bicycle with a party at a yet-to-be-determined location. Keep an eye out for more information on this fun series of events.

It's incredible to think that in other countries like Denmark, more than one-third of commuters get to school or work via bicycle. And they look good doing it. This photo appears on an intriguing blog devoted to the high style of well-dressed gentlemen traveling by bicycle.

If you had favorable weather conditions, good equipment and a commute of less than 10 miles, would you try it?

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