posted: December 14, 2019
tl;dr: The profit part is minimal: fun is the real reason to bike to work...
I’m fortunate to live in a place where I have the option of biking to work most of the year; but I also planned it that way. It’s a little more than nine miles one way, mostly on paved multi-use pathways except for a mile or so on a wide, well-marked bike lane on a street that crosses a bridge. Rain is infrequent in the Valley of the Sun, so the main weather limitation is the hot afternoons in the middle of summer: I’ve decided that 100 degrees Fahrenheit is my upper limit.
Most days I have the option of biking or driving to work. I’ll drive if I have other errands to run, but I actually prefer to bike, for these reasons:
The drive isn’t bad. I can easily avoid traffic, albeit not stoplights. Biking, however, is more fun. I enjoy breathing the outdoor air and immersing myself in the natural environment. It’s work to climb hills, but there’s a reward: the visceral excitement of speeding downhill. Most of my ride to work is through desert parks and alongside water, with plentiful natural scenery and several picturesque vistas. I occasionally see wildlife, plus plenty of dogs being walked. I also get to observe my fellow humans, as they bike, jog, scooter, walk, or merely saunter along. I listen to podcasts or music while I pedal, which adds to the enjoyment.
The other reasons on this list matter, but if biking to work wasn’t more fun than driving, I wouldn’t do it much.
When I arrive at my destination I feel better after biking than I do after driving. My heart rate has been elevated by the bike ride, more oxygen has flowed to my brain, and I feel more alive and ready to start tackling work. When I drive I feel, at best, about the same at the end as when I started. Sometimes I feel stressed out due to a traffic problem along the drive. Biking puts me in a better mood, mentally and physically.
Bicycling is my primary form of exercise. It’s satisfying to be able to put it to practical use rather than just going for a ride that returns me to where I started. I normally try to bike 10 to 15 miles in the morning on days that I don’t bike to work. This means that I suffer no real time penalty for riding to work. The extra time I spend on my bike on days I ride to work offsets the time I would spend driving to and from work after doing a morning bike ride for exercise. Biking helps keep my legs strong, my balance centered, and my heart healthy. It also helps keep the weight off.
A shining example
Growing up as a kid in upstate New York in the 1970s, the father of the household next door showed me (and anyone else who observed him) how to bike to work. The weather in upstate New York is nowhere near as conducive to biking as it is in Arizona: he had to put up with more cold weather and rain. There were no bike lanes, and bike equipment wasn’t nearly as good. There certainly was no cachet associated with bicycling back then in that part of the country. In fact he was probably viewed as a bit of a freak, or a poor person who couldn’t afford a car.
Yet I’d see him out on the road all the time, in conditions that would keep me off my bike. He was in great shape, with a taut, wiry build. I took my family back to the old neighborhood a decade or so ago and paid a visit to him and his family. By then he was in his seventies but he looked twenty years younger. It always helps to have an example or a model, and he provided a great one to me for biking to work.
There are other benefits to biking to work, but they are of less importance to me. For high mileage bicyclists, the cost per mile of bicycling is significantly less than the cost per mile of driving. (Low mileage bicyclists may be surprised at what the cost per mile is if they don’t ride their thousand dollar bikes much.) Bicycling keeps the miles off my Jeep, which extends its useful life. Bicycling avoids burning fossil fuels and is better for the environment.
Done on a large scale, bicycling can help discourage urban sprawl and reduce the amount of pavement. Bicycling is encouraged by the local government here, which has built pathways and bike lanes. Bicycling is also encouraged by my employer, meltmedia, which has a shower in the office as well as bike storage. My employer recently awarded me a $25 gift certificate for biking to work.
There are many reasons for biking to work. Fortunately, it is the fun option.