Wheel benefits: Activities peddle bicycling commuting

Remember the excitement of getting your first bike when you were a kid? How about the euphoric feeling of freedom when you learned to ride without training wheels? Who can forget summer days spent riding your bike to the pool to meet your best friend for an afternoon of carefree, adult-free, we-got-here-ourselves fun?

For many children, bicycles offer the first taste of independence and of mobility on wheels that doesn’t have to include mom or dad. Children ride bikes for years. But then we grow up, we seem to forget the once-magical bikes in our garages. Too many of us never get them back Once you know how to drive and have a vehicle of your own, or at least one accessible to you, the necessity of riding a bike drops significantly. Likewise, the freedom it once signaled spirals downward. Who needs a bike when you have a car? As it turns out, all of us.

Data shows that employees who ride their bikes to work are healthier, wealthier and more productive and have a higher quality of life than those who commute by automobile or public transit.

According to AAA, the cost of owning a car increased nearly 2 percent in 2012 to just under $9,000 a year. That takes into account rising fuel prices and vehicle maintenance and upkeep. Compare that to the just more than $300 a year it costs to own a bike. That’s a pretty significant cost savings.

In many places, travel time is the same or shorter for those on bikes. According to data from the Census Bureau, the average commuter spends 25 minutes or more driving to work each morning, even for trips of 5 miles or less, thanks to traffic. Bicycle commuters are able to navigate more easily and not spend as much time stuck in traffic.

In addition to the savings in cost and time, bicycle commuting offers health benefits that don’t require a gym or designated time to work out. You simply get on your bike and ride to and from work. Some data suggests bicycle commuters lose an average of 13 pounds in their first year of cycling to work. Many Americans would be pleased with weight loss results like that.

Riding a bike also constitutes an exercise that helps women build and maintain bone density as they age. One study found that middle-aged women were less likely to suffer wrist fractures if they walked or rode their bikes to work.

The benefits go on:

Employees who bike to work are less likely to call in sick, saving employers money on lost productivity .

The air we breathe is more polluted in a car or on public transit than on a bike. You’re also more likely to get sick riding in your car, a co-worker’s car or public transportation.

You no longer need to pay for parking. Bicycles are easily carried into an office and stashed in a cubicle or locked to a bike rack outside.    

To encourage commuting by bicycle in the Grand Valley, community leaders are promoting Grand Valley Bike to Work Month. Activities are planned throughout June to encourage residents to retrieve their bikes from the garage and ride them to work. The month culminates on June 25 with Bike to Work Day.

Bike to Work Month events include:

June 1 to 20: Commuter challenge.

June 4: Bike-n-Bite educational lunch on bike repair, 12:15 p.m., Crossroads Fitness airport location.

June 5: Grand Junction Parks and Recreation tween ride, 9:30 a.m. class, 10 a.m. ride

June 10: Bike safety class, 5 p.m., Palisade Library.

June 11: Bike-n-Bite educational lunch on improving cycling in the Grand Valley, 12:15 p.m., location to be determined.

June 24: Fruit Loop Ride, 6 p.m.

June 25: Bike to Work Day and free breakfast for bicycle commuters at Palisade Plaza, Grand Junction City Hall, Fruita Community Center and Doubletree Hotel, 6:30 to 9 a.m.

June 25: Afterglow party at Edgewater Brewery, 5 to 6:30 p.m.

June 26: Afterglow party at Palisade Brewery, 6 to 9 p.m.

June 27: Afterglow party in downtown Fruita, 6 to 9 p.m.

For more information on Bike to Work Month and Bike to Work Day, visit www.healthymesacounty.org. Get information about the month-long event on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GrandValleyBikeToWorkMonth.