Peddling pedaling: Bike to work

Mary Cornforth Cawood
Mary Cornforth Cawood

June is everyone’s favorite month here at the Mesa County Health Department. Why? June is  Colorado Bike Month.

Colorado has designated June as Bike Month to promote bicycling for transportation, fun and health. This is part of a nationwide effort to encourage everyone from novices to experts to ride their bikes to work, on errands and for recreation.

With our legendary bike trails, how could our community not get excited about a month all about bikes? The highlight of Bike Month is Bike to Work Day on June 22. Last year, 140 Mesa County employees signed up to participate in Bike to Work Day. This year, 180 Mesa County employees have already signed up.

According to a Mesa County community health needs assessment  conducted in 2015, about 75 percent of Mesa County residents reported sufficient sidewalks in neighborhoods to run, walk or ride. But only 1 percent of residents commute by bike. (Mesa County Community Health Needs Assessment 2015).  It’s time to reconsider our commute. Why bike to work? It might sound obvious, but parking your car and hopping on your bike is good for your health, the environment and your wallet.

Riding your bike to work offers a great way to build exercise into your daily routine. According to Rails to Trails, communities that prioritize active transportation tend to be healthier by enabling residents to be more physically active in their daily routines and by having cleaner air to breathe.

Bikes require no fuel, take less energy to manufacture than a car and don’t require toxic batteries or motor oil. Bikes don’t let off emissions that lead to pollution and poor air quality, either. In a study conducted by the Global Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin, researchers found if residents traded their cars for bikes during round trips of five miles or less — which accounts for 20 percent of all vehicle miles traveled — during the nicest six months of the year, bicycles could save about 4 trillion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, 1,100 lives and $7 billion in mortality and health costs for the region every year. Small changes lead to big differences.

Cost savings is always an incentive to change your ways. Just think of the money you can save on your daily commute by not spending more than $2 per gallon on gas.

The Partnership for Active Transportation reports that active transportation systems like biking create connected communities with a high quality of life that catalyze small business development, increase property values and encourage corporate investment that attracts a talented work force.

Bike to Work Day is a great way to celebrate bicycling as a means of transportation. There are many ways for you to take part in fun, festivities and challenges for  Bike Month in Mesa County.

The business challenge affords a great way to build team spirit and engage in a friendly competition against other businesses in our community. Challenge your staff to bike to work on June 22. The company or organization with the highest percentage of employees that bike to work on June 22 gets to display a traveling trophy in its work place for an entire year.

Children who ride their bikes, while wearing a helmet, to one of the Mesa County Libraries branches 10 times on different days will earn admission to a swimming pool in Palisade, Grand Junction or Fruita. Gear Up for Bike Safety is another way for kids to participate. Police officers will hand out coupons for ice cream cones to kids riding their bikes safely and wearing a helmet during June.

For more information on how to sign up for challenges and stay up to date with Colorado Bike Month events in Mesa County, visit http://healthymesacounty.org/bikemonth.

Remember, though, that biking to work isn’t just for June. Mild temperatures and blue sky days make it possible to ride your bike most months of the year. Use this month to start a new way of commuting and celebrate your health all year long.