5 reasons every day should be Bike to Work Day

blog-picture.jpgOn May 10, Oakland celebrates Bike to Work Day, an annual event to encourage bike commuting. Bike to Work Day is part of the city's strategy to promote cycling as an affordable, fun transportation option.

To fuel your ride to work or school, Bike East Bay hosts 143 Energizer Stations around Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Stop by for a free canvas bag, goodies and encouragement. Here's an Energizer Station map.

Want company? Join a pedal pool and ride with Oakland councilmembers. When you get downtown, swing by City Hall for a free pancake breakfast. Before you bike home, stop by the Latham Square Happy Hour to mingle with fellow commuters.

We can't have free snacks and pancakes every day, but we can make bike commuting a regular part of our transportation plan. Here are a few ways you and your community benefit from more bikes on the road.

1. It's good for the planet.
In the Bay Area, 43 percent of all car trips are two miles or shorter. Bicycling is an important tool to reduce air pollution: up to 70 percent of emissions from a 10-mile trip occur within the first mile.

Strava reports that during last year's Bike to Work Day, people rode 3.3 million miles in 170 countries. Those rides offset 1,580 tons of carbon emissions. That's the rough equivalent of 950,000 people idling their cars for half an hour.

2. It's good for your health.
By trading time sitting in traffic for a short bike ride, you're engaging in a healthy activity. That time in the saddle offsets some of that time spent sitting at your desk. Say you live 10 miles from work. If you bike-commute three times a week, 50 weeks a year, that's 3,000 miles a year. That equates to roughly 108,000 calories and a mountain of benefits for your heart and lungs.

3. It's good for your stress levels.
Driving more than 10 miles each way to work is associated with higher blood sugar, cholesterol and depression risk. It also causes a spike in blood pressure. Emotionally, long commutes increase stress and anxiety and create a feeling of social isolation.

Biking to work gives you a mood-boosting jolt of activity. Biking or walking to work also reduces the feeling of social isolation. You're out in the world, not confined to a car.

4. It's good for your wallet.
Cycling instead of driving saves you money on auto maintenance. Those 3,000 miles spent cycling saves you about 100 gallons of gas in a fuel-efficient car, equating to about $349 per year. You'll also need one less oil change, saving you another $35 or so.

Need more data? The City of Oakland reports that a bike's annual operating cost is about $120. A car costs $5,000 to $12,000 to operate.

5. It's good for the city.
More bikes mean more available parking spaces. An increase in bike commuting can also improve traffic congestion. When New York City added protected bike lanes to Columbus Avenue, which increased bike activity, car travel times decreased 35 percent.

More bikes can also improve local economy. In bike-friendly Portland, officials estimate the city would lose $800 million annually if its residents drove cars at the same rate of the average U.S. city. Residents spend less money on gas and a higher proportion of goods and services spending remains in the city.

How will you celebrate Bike to Work Day? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo courtesy of Richard Masoner, Flickr

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