More than half of 1 percent of American workers commute by bicycle. That may seem like a small number, but it is growing fast and the potential is huge. A survey completed by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in 2000 found that 41.3 million Americans use a bicycle for transportation, and every year more commuters are opting out of driving to work and opting into cycling. The United States’ 70 largest cities have seen the largest percentage of growth in bikers, with a 63 percent growth in new bike commuters from 2000 to 2010. Not only does commuting by bicycle save money by not having to rely on gas-powered vehicles, it is also a zero emission form of transportation that is easily accessible to people of all fitness and socio-economic levels. Bicycles cost far less than a car or truck, and other than a good helmet and periodic maintenance, bikes do not incur additional expenses after the initial purchase price.
According to the Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey, “25 percent of all trips are made within a mile of the home, 40 percent of all trips are within two miles of the home, and 50 percent of the working population commutes five miles or less to work. Yet more than 82 percent of trips five miles or less are made by personal motor vehicle.” The average vehicle emits nearly a pound of carbon dioxide (CO2) per every mile driven, and studies show that shorter car trips release more emissions than longer trips. By commuting to work by bicycle, or using a bike to complete errands, major sources of pollutants are kept out of the air. Cycling also incorporates exercise in an otherwise sedentary commute, and provides the health benefits of adding a low-impact form of exercise into a daily routine.
Many communities are becoming more bike friendly. For example, Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare program has over 1,200 bicycles available at 140 various stations around the D.C. metropolitan area. Many city buses and subway systems allow cyclists to bring their bike on-board, and organizations have the option to apply for bike commuting benefits for their employees. Associations and non-profits like the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and the League of American Bicyclists offer great on-bike courses to help cyclists become more confident while riding.
May is the perfect month to ride a bike – it’s National Bike Month, and in Washington DC, Bike to Work week is May 14 – 18, culminating with Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 18. The National Bike Challenge kicks off on May 1, with the goal of uniting 50,000 people to bike 10 million miles throughout America. Regardless of the reason, swapping out a trip in a car for a ride on a bike is always a great choice!