By Mike Norris
We all know cycling is better for the environment and for your body, but that's in the abstract. What I want you to do, right now, is visit Bike Walk Connecticut's web site (bikewalkct.org) and pledge to ride to work during National Bike to Work Day on Friday, May 16th. Here are just eight reasons why you should make that small but important commitment:
Bikes don't 'block the box': If twelve cars need to move through an intersection and there's only room for ten at the next red light, the other two cars will 'block the box' causing delays for more people. If only two of those twelve motorists take bikes on Bike to Work Day it means that traffic is going to move easier for everyone. So even if you can't ride a bike that day you still have an incentive to ask your friends and neighbors to take the BikeWalkCT pledge.
You can take it slow: In a car, if you wait 1/1000 of a second to hit the gas at a green light, some jerk behind you will start blowing his horn. If a truck is filling your rearview mirror, you feel the pressure to go faster. On a bike, you pick the speed, you set the pace, you have control. How many times a day can you do that?
You can save your money: Think about this: if gas costs an average of $3.90 a gallon and your car gets 23 miles per gallon, it means that you pay about seventeen cents each mile to drive to work. That adds up even on one trip, which means that one three mile ride saves you enough to buy a cookie at Lorca. And that's just gas savings: every mile you put on your car is another mile you get closer to your next oil change, a major overhaul, orhaving to spend hundreds of dollars on a mechanic just to get rid of a mysterious noise. Tell your car you love it and leave it at home.
Your perspective will change for the better: Instead of staring at the back of the car in front of yours for your commute while wondering why the 'check engine' light went on again, you'll be noticing things you've passed every day without realizing: a restaurant you'll want to take someone you love to. What's playing at the Avon Theatre. What one bird sounds like when you hear it singing. And when you get to work, you might just find yourself with more energy and creativity than usual.
You don't need to worry about parking: I'm the first to admitStamford absolutely needs better bike parking throughout - and I do recommend you ask your building's superintendent or your boss where you can put your bike when you arrive at work - but unlike a car, your bike doesn't need a 144+ square foot rectangular square for temporary storage. Instead, a cable lock and a fixed object is all you need if you want to stop somewhere. How often do you drive by your favorite coffee shop but can't stop in since there's no parking space available?
A bike bell sounds better than a car horn: I could just end the list on this one, but I'll continue.
You can meet people by accident: If you're driving a car and you see someone you know walking down the street toward you, you might give a tap on the horn and a wave of the hand as you keep going by. But on a bike, you can call out to that person and, if you can do it safely, pull over to talk. I got to chat a few minutes with Congressman Jim Himes on the corner of Bedford and Broad Street several weeks back because I was on a bike. I ran into a woman I only knew casually but now consider a good friend because I was on a bike. In a car neither of these things could happen.
You can meet people on purpose If you're in Stamford and ride to work May 16 you can meet other people who decided to do the same thing at the Bike to Work Day event at Veteran's Park between 7:30 and 9:00am. Hosted by South Western Regional Planning Agency and featuring other local sponsors, there will be some special guests there and some good food, so plan to stop in. If your bike needs a safety check Danny's Cycles will help out. And if you don't live in Stamford but are reading this column anyway: Bike Walk Connecticut is having a lot of Bike to Work Day events all around the state, and you can find them by clicking here.
Finally, I'd have to guess that if you would imagine the ideal place for your children to grow up, you probably wouldn't think of a place where everyone drives around in cars all the time. You'd want them to live in a world where people ride their bikes a lot.Let's take the BikeWalkCT pledge and give them that world on May 16th.
Mike Norris is the founder of DIYBIKING.COM, a site dedicated to casual cycling, random builds, and bike travel. He is a member of the Connecticut Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Board who owns one 3,300 lb. SUV and 12 1/2 bicycles. He lives and works in Stamford.
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