Early one morning a few weeks ago I had the grand idea that I was going to attempt to bike to work. Granted, I was unsure of the route and do not actually currently own a bicycle, but these seemed to be minor issues compared to the benefits this activity would surely provide. After a bit of research, I discovered there is a fairly safe route to my workplace, and the total distance would be about thirteen miles each way.
Online bicycle advocacy websites cite many benefits of bicycle commuting to include saving money on gas and car costs, cardiovascular exercise, and fresh air. There was even a line that a bad day at the office could be changed by the rush of endorphins experienced while riding a bike home on a beautiful day. I think this idealistic picture nearly persuaded me to buy a bicycle immediately. After all, endogenous morphine sounds like a winner to me. To my dismay, it sounds like endorphins may only be release after a certain exertional threshold is reached such as 60% or 70% of a person’s VO2 max. Hmmm, I’m not sure how fast I would need to be pedaling to reach these numbers, but I’m sure I could make it work.
The next part of my master plan would be the purchase of a bike. After looking in a few local bike stores, it seemed like a decent hybrid commuting bicycle would cost about $500. As it stands currently, I am considering a Trek 7.2 FX and a Marin Fairfax SC2. I think both would be reasonable options, but the Trek brand seems to have a longer history with hybrid bicycles.
As for the route itself, the majority of the distance has either a sidewalk or paved path available. Technically, I do not think bicycles are allowed to be ridden on sidewalks, but I doubt it would be a problem in this area. There are a couple areas where I would need to ride along the shoulder, so I hope bright clothing and reflective gear will alert drivers of my presence. I have driven the route many times and am pretty confident this plan is possible.
According to statistics, Arkansas is not the most bicycle-friendly state; in fact, most of the top cities for cycling seemed to be college towns. I’m not sure if cost or environmental activism are the main reasons for these statistics, but aspects of both are probably responsible. It also seems like other countries view cycling as more of a mode of transportation than the average American. Our highways and transportation network are probably the cause for this difference.
Also, I believe commuting by bicycle might be a small step towards ending dependence on foreign oil. Granted, saving five gallons per week is probably not going to significantly alter America’s total gasoline use, but it would be a start. The principles of supply and demand would no doubt apply to this situation.
So, with these thoughts in mind, I will continue to consider purchasing the bike. There seem to be many benefits, but initial cost and the time commitment are also factors to consider.