by Vanessa McCracken
Discount offer from Sunnyside Bicylces at the end of this post!
We have a sign in our front window that reads, “The bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems.” With Earth Day approaching on April 22, we are reminded just how true this statement is. Earth Day is a chance to bring renewed attention and energy to what should be an everyday conversation for those of us living in the Central Valley: What can we each personally do to help improve the quality of air that we and our loved ones are breathing?
Of course there are long-term, far-reaching benefits to consider when having this conversation, but those of us living in the Valley know we have an immediate cause for concern. One in six children living in the San Joaquin Valley suffers from asthma and, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis, there was a 44% increase in the number of visits to the ER for asthma symptoms by Fresno County children ages 5 to 17 between 2005-2012. Chances are, you or someone in your own extended family suffers from this respiratory disease. Even if you don’t, though, you are familiar with the effects of bad air on the Valley. We’ve all grown accustomed to checking the Daily Air Quality Status, and we all know the difference between the Orange and Red Zones. We’ve grown used to not being able to see the foothills and consider it a treat when the skies are clear enough to see the magnificent mountain ranges that border our valley. So Earth Day or not, it’s worth asking ourselves, “What can I do to help contribute less to this problem?”
Luckily, there’s a simple way you can help, and it just so happens to be loads of fun, too: Ride your bike more! (You knew where I was going with that, right?) The Worldwatch Institute states that a 4-mile bike trip keeps about fifteen pounds of pollutants out of the air we breath. Go ahead and read that last sentence again. Fifteen pounds! Since half of all trips we make are three miles or less, it is easy to see how going by bike just a few times a week can add up to a substantial change.
Think about where you drive during the week. Could you ride your bike to the gym instead of drive once or twice a week? Could you ride to work once a week? Could you ride to the grocery store instead of drive now and then, or ride to meet your friends for coffee? If we all pledged to go by bike just a few extra times each week, we could make a significant impact on the quality of air that we and our kids breathe. Plus, let’s be real, riding a bike is just fun. You’ll feel happier, more energetic, more alert, and more present when you go by bike. I know these things don’t necessarily have anything to do with the environment or Earth Day, but they’re equally important reasons to go by bike, in my opinion. It’s worth doing it for yourself, if not for the Earth or the air quality.
So now that you’re ready to take the pledge and go by bike a few times a week, let’s go over a few tips to help you get rolling:
Now is the perfect time to make going by bike a few times a week a regular habit. If you need any help with making the switch from car to bike, please don’t hesitate to stop by either of our shops. We can help with any part of it, from making sure your bike is safe to figuring out how to carry stuff or lock up your bike to helping you devise the safest route. Earth Day and every day, our mission is to educate, empower and inspire as many people as possible to ride bikes as often as possible, and to use the power of bicycles to build up, engage and support our local community. We are here to serve you!
1. Get your bike ready. Air up your tires, clean and lube your chain, do a quick checkover to make sure everything’s working properly. Because you’re using your bike to get from Point A to Point B, I recommend installing some kind of flat prevention (e.g., thorn-resistant tubes, sealant) to avoid the hassle of dealing with a flat on your commute.
2. Get your gear ready. When you go by bike, you usually need to carry something. Make sure you have a rack, bags, baskets, or some way to transport whatever it is you’ll be carrying. Lights are also important and an inexpensive way to stay extra visible out there. I strongly suggest a U-lock and a flat repair kit, as well as a helmet. Pick out some bright and reflective clothing to wear on the ride.
3. Plan your route. It’s likely that the best way to travel to your destination by bike is not the same route you would take by car. Pre-ride your route. Look for roads with bike lanes or that are extra wide. Consider how you will enter and exit the parking lot of your destination, and where you will lock up your bike.
4. Pack your clothes. If you’re commuting to work by bike, it might help to take a change of clothes to work with you the day before. John keeps a change of clothes at work all the time so that he can ride in without having to carry all his clothes on the way. We also keep a refresher kit at work for convenience.
5. Educate yourself on the ‘Rules of the Road’ and ‘Smart Cycling Basics.’ The League of American Bicyclists has a great website with tons of educational articles and videos. I also teach a free monthly Bikes 101 and Smart Cycling Basics clinic at both shops that go over things like how to shift gears on your bike and air up tires in addition to how to safely ride in traffic. (More details here.)
Mention this article and take $20 off any labor service or bicycle accessory purchase over $50! Offer expires May 31, 2016.
Here is another interesting article on biking and the environment: www.bikingexpert.com/ultimate-guide-to-the-benefits-of-biking, and another one on with more of the benefits of cycling.
If you love bikes and enjoy a good mystery, check out KRL’s review & giveaway of a mystery novel that has to do with bikes-Breaking For Bodies!