Commuting has always been off and on during certain increments throughout my life. In the past year, it has become more integrated and I’ve adapted to it on a daily basis. I don’t have to commute very far, nor do I stay in traffic for very long. I actually enjoy the drive in the mornings and evenings. I drive against the main flow of traffic, so I’m very lucky that I don’t get stuck in traffic a lot. However, I prefer to not drive on my days off. There comes a point when I like to limit my driving so I’m forced to use my bicycle instead. When I was in high school, I biked everywhere as transportation. I only started borrowing my mom’s car when I was a senior in high school. Driving never appealed to me the way it may to some others. There was a level of freedom that vehicles do give us, but there’s an entirely new kind of freedom when you set forth on a bicycle.
With a bike, there are trails and paths you’re allowed to explore where cars cannot go and with bikes, you can go down the back roads a lot and explore your city. Plus, the cost of maintaining a bike is so much less than a vehicle, that part of my love for biking comes from that wallet breaker. There are no yearly costs to maintain your bike or gas to pay for when using a bike. Once in a while there may be maintenance or upgrades you may want to add you your bike, but overall, it’s a simple for of transportation.
There are always risks to transportation, as well as everything else in life. Bikes are not as easily visible by larger vehicles, and not everyone catches the glimpse of a biker in their side mirror when they’re about to make that turn down a side street. However, if you are aware of your surroundings and the habits of drivers, just know that they may not see you. Bikes are also easier to steal it seems and some can be a hot commodity in certain cities. If I could, I’d bike to work, but it’s a bit of a route and I haven’t attempted it yet. I still vote for biking overall.
So here’s a simple list of why I do prefer biking over vehicles:
1) It’s easier to finance a new bicycle than a new car. Thanks to the recession, auto loans are hard to find these days — even if you have good credit. But for the price of a single car payment, you can buy a well-made bicycle that should outlast most cars. Add a few hundred dollars more for rain gear, lights and accessories, and you have all-weather, anytime transportation.
2) A bicycle has a tiny manufacturing footprint when compared to a car. All manufactured goods have environmental impact, but bicycles can be produced for a fraction of the materials, energy and shipping costs of a car.
3) Bicycles produce no meaningful pollution when in operation. Bikes don’t have tailpipes belching poisonous fumes into the atmosphere. They also eliminate the oil, fuel and hydraulic fluids dropped by automobiles onto the road surface — which means less toxic runoff into local waterways.
4) Bikes save taxpayers money by reducing road wear. A 20-pound bicycle is a lot less rough on the pavement than a two-ton sedan. Every bicycle on the road amounts to money saved patching potholes and resurfacing city streets.
5) Bicycles are an effective alternative to a second car. Perhaps you’re not in a position to adopt a bicycle as primary transportation. But bikes make great second vehicles. You can literally save thousands of dollars a year using a bicycle for workday commuting and weekend errands in households which might otherwise be forced to maintain two cars.
6) Using a bike for transportation can help you lose weight and improve your overall health. The health benefits of regular aerobic exercise are well-known. Depending on your riding style and local road conditions, you could easily burn 600 calories an hour through brisk cycling. Most bike commuters report losing 15 to 20 pounds during their first year in the saddle without changing their eating habits.
7) You can store a dozen bicycles in a single automobile-sized parking place.Parking lots have enormous environmental and financial impact, particularly in urbanized areas. The more bikes you can get on the road, the fewer parking spaces you need to build.
8) Bicycles don’t burn gasoline. Fuel is cheap compared to last year, and the economic downturn is likely to keep a lid on petroleum demand for a while. But we’re not producing any more oil today than we were when it was more than $100 a barrel. A healthy bike culture will help ease pressure on supply once demand returns.
9) Bicycling may be faster and more efficient than taking a car. We’re not talking about the crazy — and illegal — antics of New York bicycle messengers. But bikes are often faster than cars in urban areas, especially when city designers have set aside proper bike lanes. There’s nothing more satisfying as a bicycle commuter than breezing past a long line of gridlocked traffic.
10) Bikes cost much less to maintain and operate than automobiles. You’ll never throw a rod on a bicycle, and dropping a transmission on a bike usually means replacing a bent derailleur hanger or worn-out chain. Bicycles do require service, but you can learn to perform most of it yourself. Even if you have a shop do things for you, costs will be trivial compared to a car.
11) Bicycles provide mobility for those who may not qualify or afford to drive.Not everyone can get a driver’s license (or wants one), and the cost of purchasing, insuring and maintaining a car is out of reach for a lot of people. Almost everyone can afford some sort of bike. Other than walking, bicycles are the most cost-effective transportation on the planet.
12) Studies show that bicycle commuters are healthier, more productive, and require less time off at work. This is why most enlightened employers are eager to accommodate commuting cyclists. Healthy workers are better workers — and that’s good for the bottom line. Bikes are smart business.