Biking your Way to Work and Personal Health

Bike commuting is a great way to both get yourself to and from work and find time to work some exercise into your busy day.  The ability to bike one’s daily commute allows for a greater freedom of movement than perhaps the daily traffic jam might. Though more fresh air in your daily commute is certainly a plus, there are also many other great benefits to bike commuting, for your health and even your wallet.

The recommended amount of exercise for most healthy adults, according to the Mayo Clinic, is 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity. Though this seems doable for an entire week, many adults have a difficult time filling this weekly quota due to their busy schedules. By working exercise into your commute time however, time strapped adults can easily match or exceed weekly exercise recommendations.  

Meeting exercise requirements isn’t just the only health benefit to pedalling to work though. Cycling also affects your mood.  Cyclists have been found to be the happiest commuters across the board beating out drivers, public transit users and walkers. They were also found to be less stressed and more productive immediately following their commute when compared to drivers and public transit users. 

Cycling also proved to be the healthiest method of transportation. Studies have found that cycling is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and other causes of death with one study showing an overall 40% risk reduction in early death. Walking, the other common method of active transportation also produced some reductions in heart disease but not to the same extent as cycling.  Cycling to work can be a good way to sneak in exercise and may also be the most important workout of your day for both your physical and mental health. 

If the health benefits aren’t enough to sell you, according to research conducted by the CAA, owning a car costs Canadians more a staggering average of 9,500 dollars a year. Biking instead of driving a car saves approximately $1 per km. With most Canadians traveling more than 7.2km to get to work, biking just 1 day a week can leave people with close to an extra $400 a year.  

While cycling, may require an initial investment of a few hundred to two thousand dollars, plus yearly tuneup and maintenance costs, the cost is substantially lower than car ownership and the difference could easily buy a year’s worth of groceries. Studies performed in the U.S. and Canada also indicate that through replacing even half of our small, less than 5 kilometre commutes with cycling, we can reduce health care costs for obesity and heart disease. 

Though perhaps not a direct cost out of our pockets on a day to day basis, another cost that cycling to work can help save on is to our environment. By lowering our automotive vehicle usage, we can help contribute to lowering harmful emissions. A 16 kilometre round trip, 5 days a week for one year in even a small car produces almost an entire ton of carbon dioxide into the air. 

Though all of these potential benefits are great, what is bike commuting really like in Calgary? What does it really take?

Calgary cyclist, Nick Bromer has been cycling to work when weather permits since 2015, and says that he couldn’t be happier with the choice. While Bromer originally thought his 7km round trip would be slower on bike, he found it actually saved him time. With the current economy, Bromer also finds bike commuting a good way to save money though he does still have a car for larger trips.

Other reasons people cited for favoring the bike commute were getting to ride through parks and pathways as opposed to battling traffic on the roads and getting the opportunity to socialize and interact with people more on their bike in with the open air.

As for one of the biggest negatives and annoyances of bike commuting, the quickly changing Calgary weather; bike commuters deal with this in a variety of ways. Many cyclists carry a lightweight rain jacket everywhere, some always have a change of clothes at work anyways and some people planned alternative methods to get back to avoid a rainy cycle home.

The quickly changing weather isn’t enough to deter cyclists though. Bromer, as well as many others is part of a big rise in cyclists in Calgary in the past five years.  From 2011 to 2016 the percentage of people cycling to work doubled. On the average weekday, over 1400 cyclists pass through Calgary’s Peace Bridge with roughly 1700 cycling down Stephen Avenue.

Though it may seem intimidating at first, there are lots of great ways to get started or try out bike commuting. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, routines don’t change overnight. A good first step is to try out cycling for  nearby errands or to visit neighbors and then progress to longer and longer distances. Google maps can help you navigate by bike giving you options to opt for a longer ride but stay on a pathway and also letting you know about elevation changes.  If you’re feeling nervous about biking on the roads check out an urban biking class from Bike Calgary or Safer Cycling Calgary. With Calgary’s great and extensive pathway system and our new and hopefully growing bike lane system it’s a great time to start commuting by bike. 

 

Peace bridge photo from Bike Calgary. Creative Commons License.

Cycle Track photo from Bike Calgary. Creative Commons License.

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