According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more of us are foregoing car traffic or the joy of being trapped under someone’s armpit on public transportation to bike to work.
The government data found that the number of people who bike to work has increased by 60% over the last decade from 88,000 in 2000 to about 786,000 in 2008–2012. Are you ready to join their numbers? Here are five ways your life changes, in both good and bad ways, once you start cycling to work.
1) It’s good exercise
When you’re biking every day, you’re getting in a workout that’s easy on your joints. Biking promotes your cardiovascular health and in the long run could cut healthcare costs — an important factor when medical debt is rising in the U.S.
A study on the biking culture of Portland, Oregon, found that it could save the city’s residents as much as $594 million in healthcare costs over the next 30 years. Assuming that Portland’s residents keep up their healthy biking, the researchers predicted that there would be fewer costly, chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
2) It’s cost-effective commuting
And biking is much cheaper than driving. Analysis from the Sierra Club found that “if American drivers were to make just one four-mile round trip each week with a bicycle instead of a car, they would save nearly two billion gallons of gas.” Almost half of our trips are within two miles of our homes; if we decided to bike those trips, it would save us significant money.
3) It increases your productivity at work
Bike-commuting, maybe because it boosts your health, may even affect worker productivity. A Dutch think tank found that workers who biked were less likely to call in sick and be absent from work.
4) You become more aware of your surroundings
And yet despite all these benefits, I am still too terrified to join these growing cyclist numbers living in New York City. In 2014, there were 20 cycling fatalities in New York City and in 2015, there were 14 cycling deaths. One death is too many.
Without protected bike lanes and more visibility at crosswalks, a commute to work can turn deadly in a city like New York City that’s not as bike-friendly as Boulder, Colorado, which was ranked by Outside magazine as the best city for cyclists. With its high biker population, cities like Boulder confirms the “safety in numbers” theory that studies have found: the more people who cycle, the more people become aware of bicyclists in their environment.
5) You must become more aware of the safety of others
Until New York City gets to that point, you’ll have to deal with human obstacles. As one cyclist on the Brooklyn Bridge showed recently, a major downside to cycling is not just dodging cars, but also unaware pedestrians. To the tune of Star Wars theme song, cyclist Noam Osband chanted, “you’re in the bike lane, you’re in the biiiike lane,” to pedestrians walking in front of him.
The pro-cyclist who filmed Osband’s bike ride called him a “bike lane hero” but the pro-pedestrians I showed this video to called him arrogant, entitled, and annoying. Either way, he’s trying not to run people down, which is a good outcome.
Wherever you fall on the cyclist-pedestrian divide, being a cyclist means you can’t just get to point A to point B without paying attention; like every other mode of transportation, you need to be aware of your own safety and the safety of those around you—even if that means singing Star Wars at them.