Learning how to ride a bike is something that most people are taught at a young age. At first, it is something fun to do outside, then it becomes a way to get around town with friends and some people continue to ride well into adulthood as a way to exercise and enjoy the great outdoors. Unlike some other learned activities, people rarely forget how to ride a bike, even if many years have passed since the last time they rode (hence the quote, “it’s like learning to ride a bike” when referring to something learned that is difficult to forget). That’s good news for people around the world who are interested in reaping the many benefits that biking offers. And May is the perfect time to get a handle on your exercise routine as it is National Bike Month, sponsored by The League of American Bicyclists and celebrated in communities nationwide. According to the organization’s website, National Bike Month was established in 1956, and is a chance to showcase the many benefits of bicycling and encourage more people to give biking a try. National Bike to Work Week and Bike to Work Day are considered the month’s main events, occurring the third week and third Friday of May, respectively. This year, Bike to Work Day is on May 19. “National Bike to Work Day is important because it can bring together individuals and communities to see the benefits of biking to work,” says Steve Taylor, communications manager at The League of American Bicyclists.
Whether it’s because people are looking to reap the health benefits of biking, reduce their carbon footprint or to shield themselves against increasing commuting costs, the facts are clear, the number of bicyclists is growing rapidly. According to The League of American Bicyclists, as of 2015, almost 900,000 people in the United States used a bike as their primary mode of transportation (200,000 more than in 2006!). This increase is due to many factors, one of which is the recent proliferation of Bicycle-Friendly Communities (BFC). From 2000 to 2013, bicycle commuting rates in large BFCs increased by 105 percent, which is above the national average of 62 percent and more than double the rate in non-BFCs (31 percent).
Another justification for the rise in bicycling to work, and for bicycling in general, is our nation’s collective desire to get healthier. Bicycling is an excellent way to get toned and build muscle. It also helps decrease the risk of coronary heart disease and quickly burn calories, and is a great way to control your weight or shed any excess pounds you might wish to lose. Riding a bike also has been known to help improve mental health. In fact, the Mayo Clinic recommends that people with symptoms of depression consider exercising, such as biking to work, to help prevent and improve a number of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis, as well as ease symptoms of anxiety, depression and help to reduce anxiety and improve mood.
In addition to being good for you, it’s good for the environment, too. Bicycling to work will reduce your personal carbon footprint, which is a great way to help combat global climate change on the local level. Also, while bicycling is a healthy way to keep your bottom in check, it’s also great way to increase your bottom line. Biking to work saves money on commuting costs (imagine your joy when you realize you no longer have to worry about the increase in gas prices, parking fees or toll hikes!). Plus, bike commuters may be eligible for a tax-free reimbursement each month. Physically, mentally, environmentally and financially, biking offers several benefits for all aspects of our lives.
According to Taylor, people can join in the Bike to Work movement by biking to work this week, and those who already bike to work are encouraged to assist a colleague or friend who is interested in biking to work by helping them get their bike ready, accompanying them on the ride and sharing the experience as a bike commuter. He also suggests finding a local bike advocacy group or bike club that is doing a Bike to Work Day event and to volunteer with the group. “Every year sees more people biking to work every day,” says Taylor. “During Bike to Work Week this year, the League of American Bicyclists is announcing that we now have awarded 1,343 Bicycle Friendly Businesses in all 50 states.” Such businesses often offer incentives and fun events and activities for employees who bike to work. Have concerns about bike commuting? Check out some tips on overcoming these concerns.
While May is certainly one of the best times to get on the road to wellness by biking, the benefits of riding a bike can be enjoyed year-round. For example, avid cyclists and biking newbies can join in the National Bike Challenge, which is a nationwide event that encourages bicyclists of all levels to challenge themselves, their colleagues and their community to ride more. The challenge runs from May 1 through Sept. 30, 2017. So dust off your old bike or buy a new one and take it for a ride today—it just might change your life for the better!