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Bike to Work Week

May 16-20 is Bike to Work Week. During this time, people are encouraged to try out a more car-free lifestyle by biking to work and other errands rather than driving. The economical and ecological benefits of cycling over driving are huge (less wear and tear on your car, cheaper fuel costs, and a smaller carbon footprint), but perhaps the biggest bonus comes from the healthful profits of being active.

Cycling offers all the benefits of cardio coupled with a joint-friendly, low-impact exercise. Besides building stronger lung and heart muscles, lowering blood pressure, and reducing stress, cycling to work instead of driving can help you lose weight. A 190 lb. person will burn approximately 50 calories per mile of moderate-intensity cycling. For example, say that you normally commute 5 miles to work. By bicycling that distance instead, you’ve burned 500 calories (round trip) that you wouldn’t have otherwise. If you modify nothing else about your lifestyle, you could lose over 18 lbs. in only six months from this simple change!

Of course there’s the flip side – cycling can be extremely dangerous, especially when cars are involved. Therefore it’s crucial that you ride with the utmost awareness of your surroundings and take every precaution to insure you arrive at your destination safely. Follow these safety tips during Bike to Work Week and any time you’re out cycling:

Always wear a properly fitting helmet. The strap should be snug enough to prevent the helmet from sliding back and exposing your forehead.
Keep your bike in good working order, including regular maintenance on brakes, tires, chains, etc.
Know and use hand signals, and obey the rules of the road. This includes riding in the same direction as traffic and passing pedestrians on the left following a verbal warning. For a look at Idaho’s laws regarding cyclists, click here.
Watch for unexpected car hazards, such as a car pulling out of a driveway or an opening car door.
Be extra visible, even during daylight. Wear bright colors and/or reflective clothing. Put headlights and horns on your bike. And most important – ride as if you are invisible. Bikes can be hard to see, and drivers are sometimes distracted. Even if you obey the rules and are in the right, yield to an automobile. In a collision with a vehicle, a bike ALWAYS loses.
Take the road less travelled. If you have a choice between a route with lots of traffic and a route that’s much quieter, choose the latter.
Avoid using MP3 players and cell phones while cycling. Not only do these divide your attention, they impair your hearing, making you less able to react to your surroundings.

When done safely, cycling is a huge boost to every community. Even if you commute farther than you can bike, next week, try substituting cycling for driving during your daily errands and reap the healthy benefits. Keep moving, my friends!

– Alan

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