Sharrows Do The Body Good

2 Apr

After roughly 6-years of dealing with WMATA metro delays, broken escalators, and sweating profusely in the dog days of DC summer, I became a bike commuter. Before I rode my self-propelled chariot to work, good days on WMATA saw a door-to-door commuting time from home to work was 25-30 minutes. On bad days, it was 35-40 minutes. Unfortunately, I only lived 3 miles from work. Biking to work just made sense. Of course, I first had to realize that you don’t need to be a super hero to commute by bicycle in a major metro area. After coming to grips with that, I shaved roughly 30-40 minutes off my total daily commute, got the heart rate up, and usually make it to the office in 10-12 minutes.

Just over one year later (and in much better shape), I can say that bike commuting has truly changed my life and how I approach each day. This has also fueled a fanatical cycling addiction, but that’s another story. Bike commuting has allowed me to be more focused, thoughtful, and productive at my job. It’s a helpful practice (daily exercise routines) for those of us who sometimes get distracted away from our daily job duties. I’m no modern medical miracle, researchers have been studying the link between physical activity and attention deficit since the 1970s. Clipping in for the morning commute and taking off is a zen-like experience for me to start the day.

Oh, and about those health benefits. PeopleForBikes has a blog post discussing recent research showing the health benefits of bike commuting for transportation over commuting by car. This is rather obvious, but there’s a catch:

The four-year study of 822 adults found that found that people commuting to work by car gained more weight on average, even if they engaged in regular exercise, than people who did not commute by car. The authors of the study recommend creating more opportunities for everyone to walk or bike to work.

But why? Personally, my daily bike commute is simply part of my routine. It’s my mode of transportation and how I get to the office. I don’t substitute my commute for working out at the gym or going for a run, but rather view it as a natural part of my day. It’s how I get from point A to point B.

Cities known for their traffic congestion issues (including DC) have made admirable steps in making their roads safer for bike commuters and cyclists. DC’s famous and wildly successful CapitalBikeshare has seen cities such as NYC and Chicago adopt similar efforts to bring bikesharing to the masses. The Atlantic explores just how pivotal the opening of CapitalBikeshare has been to making bike commuting more friendly in the DC-area:

Since its opening in 2010, DC has added dedicated bicycling lanes to several main thoroughfares — Pennsylvania Avenue, 15th Street, and L Street, with M Street soon to follow — and seen a 175 percent increase in overall ridership.

CapitalBikeshare has certainly ushered in a sea-change in terms of bike commuting in DC metro region. While DC is still a little off from at our friends on the west coast, the metro region is evolving into one that is embracing bike commuting and making this practice very welcoming for residents and future commuters. Hop on your bike. You don’t need a scientific study to realize how good bicycling will make you feel.

For those inclined on reading some research on the benefits of bicycle commuting, here are a few papers:

Dill, Jennifer. 2009.Bicycling for Transportation and Health: The Role of Infrastructure.Journal of Public Health Policy. Vol. 30, pp. 95–S110.

Huth Smith, Lisa von and Knut Borch-Johnsen,Torben Jørgensen. 2007.Commuting physical activity is favourably associated with biological risk factors for cardiovascular disease.European Journal of Epidemiology. Volume 22, Issue 11, pp 771-779.

Litman, Todd. 2008. “Valuing Transit Service Quality Improvements. Journal of Public Transportation. Vol. 11, No. 2, pp. 43-64.

Rashad, Inas, 2007.Cycling: An Increasingly Untouched Source of Physical and Mental Health.” NBER Working Paper No. w12929.

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2 Responses to “Sharrows Do The Body Good”

  1. Forrest April 2, 2013 at 5:37 pm #

    For me, the best thing about commuting by bike is that the amount of time it takes is going to be very close to the same, every day. A game or concert that snarls traffic might add an hour or more to my commute if I do it by car, and I don’t pay attention to when these things happen. But I can make plans to meet friends after work knowing that my cyclo-commute time is amazingly consistent.

    • jmbadlam April 2, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

      Oh, I absolutely agree. That’s an excellent point. You always have more options than a car or riding transit provides, while still abiding by traffic laws.

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