New York City built its first bike path, a 5-mile stretch between Prospect Park and Coney Island, way back in 1894. Since then, the city has added more than 1,000 lanes to get cyclists from Point A to Point B — and they’re sure to get plenty of use Friday during National Bike to Work Day.
Established in 1956 and sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, Bike to Work Day is part of a month-long program “ to celebrate the unique power of the bicycle and the many reasons we ride.” Bicycling advocates will have stations set up around New York to encourage, educate and fuel your trips.
Efforts like Bike to Work Day appear to be paying off. Today, about 20% of the more than 450,000 daily bike trips in New York City are by commuters, according to The New York Times. That’s up from 170,000 trips in 2005, an increase attributable in part to the work of cycling advocates such as Transportation Alternatives, which has been pressing for more and safer bike paths since the 1970s. (Incidentally, Transportation Alternatives will be celebrating National Bike to Work Month, so keep your eyes open for its commuter stations.)
Why bike to work? For starters, your body may thank you. Last year, the British Medical Journal published research that found that bicycling to work was associated with a:
- 41% lower risk of dying overall compared with commuting by car or public transport.
- 52% lower risk of dying from heart disease.
- 40% lower risk of dying from cancer.
Bike commuters also had lower risk of developing heart disease and cancer in the first place.
Pedaling to work is good for your wallet, too. As Business Insider has noted, bike commuting is a free alternative to driving (or forking over $121 for a monthly MetroCard), and it provides a free workout — no gym membership required..
Of course, we’re particularly swayed by the benefits bike commuting can provide for the environment. A few years back, researchers at MIT found that car commuters emit almost 400 times more greenhouse gases than bike commuters per passenger mile. At that rate, even one commute by bicycle per week could save a lot of greenhouse gas emissions.
At Dawn, We Ride
Ready to ride to work? If you don’t have your own, you can check out a Citi Bike from one of the 750 docking stations around New York. Also, be sure to note the NYC DOT’s list of safety tips, especially if this will be your first bike commute. Among other things, remember to wear a helmet and stay in the bike paths. And in case it rains Friday — forecasts suggest it might — Active.com has some smart ideas for bicycling when it’s wet outside.
Can’t make it to Bike to Work Day? A month from now, New Yorkers can catch the 18th annual Bicycle Film Festival. Founded by a bicycling New Yorker who wanted to “celebrate the bicycle through music, art and, of course, film” the fest seems like a particularly fun way to follow up on this month’s bicycling celebrations.
Biking to work is just one way to cut your carbon footprint and save money at the same time. Might we suggest another?