Easy as riding a bike: Two-wheeled commutes offer benefits

Kelsey Fife

The Grand Valley is home to some of the best views, trails and other natural amenities. With so many scenic and recreational opportunities, it’s no wonder the people who live here are among the most physically active and healthy in the nation. On weekends, residents hike and ride the trails that are so valuable to our community.

But what about Monday through Friday? It seems we trade some of our favorite weekend activities, like riding bikes, for sitting in traffic and working in offices, missing out on the natural benefits the Grand Valley has to offer. What if there was a way to make your weekdays as much fun as your weekends?

What if there was a faster way to get to work? About 40 percent of trips in the United States are less than 2 miles. Studies show riding your bike for trips 3 miles or less is faster than driving your car. Trips that are 5 miles to 7 miles take as much time on a bike as a car. The Grand Valley offers trails and routes that make the trip to work easier and faster. Plus, you’ll be able to soak in the sunshine, finish a cup of coffee before running out the door and get to work without the hassle of traffic.

What if you could save money? Employees who ride bikes at least three days a week are eligible to deduct $20 a month from their taxable income. Through the bike benefit, employees who ride can be compensated up to $20 a month for bike riding-related expenses. Riding saves money since bikes don’t require gasoline and bike repairs cost hundreds less than car repairs. The average American spends about $165 on gas and oil each month. That’s just under $2,000 a year. Bike repairs can be completed quickly and even at home. Bikes are sold all around the Grand Valley and vary in price, but you don’t need the latest and greatest model to gain all the benefits riding offers.

What if you want more time for exercise? Studies show cyclist commuters lose an average of 13 pounds a year and keep the weight off. In addition, riding builds muscle mass; increases strength, heart health and coordination; and boosts confidence. Riding increases energy and productivity throughout the day, improves your mood and decreases the number of sick days. Since you have more time commuting around the Grand Valley, your warm-up and cool down at the gym is already calculated into your commute and you could easily fit more of what you want to do into your schedule. In addition, riding your bike to work helps you log moderate exercise each day.

What if you want to breathe easier? According to the Environmental Protection Agency, each mile biked cuts about a pound of carbon dioxide emissions. If your ride to work is longer than 7 miles, consider taking public transportation to a closer location more suitable for biking. In a community concerned about pollution, reducing as much emissions as possible benefits the entire valley.

What if you can get everyone to ride? Bike to School and Work Day will be celebrated on National Bike to School Day on May 6. This day kicks off Bike Month with hundreds of participants of all ages commuting around the Grand Valley. Free breakfasts will be offered to those who ride from 6:30 to 9 a.m. at Grand Junction City Hall, Octopus Coffee on Horizon Drive in Grand Junction and Fruita Civic Park. For businesses and groups of friends, deciding on a meetup location and riding to breakfast or the office together can make your ride more exciting and memorable.

What if you have a competitive office? Each year Mesa County Public Health promotes a challenge in which the business with the largest proportion of employees who commute by bike to work on May 6 wins a trophy and is honored for the next year. The business challenge fosters team spirit in the office and gets employees physically active. The competition is open to all businesses. Multiple trophies are awarded depending on your business size. To sign up, go to the Healthy Mesa County website at
www.healthymesacounty.org. You’ll also be able to buy Grand Valley Bike Month t-shirts for your business.

What if you already commute by bike? Log those miles. Those who participate in the commuter challenge can log their miles on the Healthy Mesa County website and compete against other riders. The challenge runs for a three-week period from May 3 to 23 and encourages participants to ride their bikes where they would normally drive their cars. The top three riders win prizes at the end of the challenge.

What if you’re new to riding or haven’t gotten around to riding much this year? Mesa County Public Libraries has scheduled an event for May 2 for those riding on May 6 or want to ride more this year. This event will cover updated routes to help you ride to school or work, riding rules and how to prepare for your next ride. Some important information to keep in mind while riding includes packing enough water, bringing an extra set of clothes for the day, wearing a helmet and finding an enjoyable route.

Bike Month events continue through May, so don’t miss out. Keep up to date on events like the Mountain Bike Film Festival on May 28 and more on the Healthy Mesa County website.

Happy riding. The different perspective, new outlook and fun change you desire could be as easy as riding a bike.