I’m going to start with a confession. I grew up riding bikes all the time, but at some point I just stopped. I want to say I had a bad fall or something traumatic happened, but really, I can’t remember why – I just know that I went about 15 years without riding a bike. And even though the old saying, “it’s like riding a bike,” makes this seem impossible, I sort of forgot how to ride a bike in that timespan. However, since I’m dedicated to pushing myself out of my comfort zone, last summer I got a Divvy membership and forced myself to re-learn how to ride a bike. Let me tell you, it was life changing.
I just got married, and instead of a traditional wedding gift, my husband and I bought each other new bikes. As soon as the weather cooperates, I am excited to start commuting to work by bike. And I’m not alone. From 1990 to 2013, Chicago saw a 389 percent increase in bicycle commuter share. There are tons of great reasons to join the over 21,000 Chicagoans ditching their traditional commute for biking.
Access more places in the city
When I say that Divvy, and now owning a bike, changed my life, it’s mainly because it opened up access to so many neighborhoods that were difficult to get to using just public transportation. For example, I work in River North. Even though I love the West Loop for it’s amazing gyms like Crosstown Fitness and On Your Mark, and it’s delicious restaurants like Parlor Pizza and Cone, there is no easy way to get there from my office (or even my home in Lakeview). It’s less than two miles from where I work by Merchandise Mart, but on public transportation or even if I try to walk, it’s easily over a half hour commute. On my bike? I can be there in under 10 minutes. Boom, life changer. Commuting to work means that now, you can work out or meet a friend for dinner almost anywhere in the city, without worrying about taking two buses and a train to get home. Plus, I literally zip by the lines of traffic downtown, definitely beating anyone trying to drive.
Chicago is notorious for ridiculously overpriced parking. And even though gas prices are lower than they’ve been, it’s still not cheap to fill up that tank every week. An unlimited CTA pass will set you back a crisp Benjamin every month. But biking? Once you own the bike (or get an annual Divvy membership), your costs are basically limited to bike repairs, which is probably going to be closer to $100 per year, instead of per month. Which means more money for the things you like doing, and less money wasted on your boring commute. I recommend investing in a heavy-duty U-lock (I have a Krypotonite) and/or convincing your employer to let you store your bike in the office. We have a corner of our office where people keep their bikes, so I don’t have to worry about it getting stolen while I’m at work.
Improve your health
Setting aside the fact that riding public transportation can increase your odds of catching an acute respiratory infection by as much as six-fold, adding those extra miles of biking to your day is a great way to sneak in extra cardio. Using GPS data in Endomondo and heart rate data from my FitBit, I estimate that I burn between 200 and 250 calories in each direction when I bike from Lakeview to River North. Since two of my favorite things – laying at the beach in a bathing suit and eating ice cream – fall in the same season, that extra calorie burn helps me find my perfect balance. As a bonus, getting my heart pumping on the way into work often wakes me up enough that I don’t even need to drink coffee! If that’s not enough to convince you, one study even found that active commuting such as biking or walking can lower your risk of wrist fracture. Just please please please wear a helmet!
A photo posted by Dani (@daniliff) on
Start and end your day with a pretty view
As much as I love watching people play Candy Crush on their phones on the L, my ride to work on the Lakefront Trail is a LOT prettier. The lake is by far my favorite part of living in Chicago, but unless I’m biking to work, I rarely get a chance to see it on a weekday. Riding my bike into work allows me to disconnect from the concrete jungle and remind myself what makes Chicago so beautiful. Since the Mayor announced plans to split the Lakefront Trail from Fullerton to Oak Street for runners and bikers, commuting will become even easier as you can avoid the congestion of North Avenue beach.
For those who live too far west to commute along the lake, there are plenty of beautiful things to see when you’re biking in. Whether you’re taking in a view of the Chicago skyline, or spotting new restaurants you want to try, it’s easier to enjoy the city if you’re on a bike than staring out the grimy windows of the L, or staring at the car behind you in gridlocked traffic. You’d be surprised how many beautiful sunsets you’ve been missing until you hop on a bike to ride home.
Your employer just might pay you!
The Bicycle Commuter Act, which went into effect in 2009, makes biking to work a qualified transportation for expense reimbursement. That means your employer can offer you up to $20 per month for costs such as the purchase of a bike, bicycle maintenance, a bike lock, a helmet, or even a place to shower or store your bike. Divvy also offers some pretty steep discounts through their corporate memberships, if your employer signs on. If your employer isn’t offering these benefits yet, let them know that commuting by bike has been shown to reduce absenteeism due to sickness, so encouraging you to commute by bike is really a win-win.
Need the final push?
National Bike to Work Week is coming up May 16-20 and National Bike to Work Day is May 20! Set a goal to try biking all week, and you just might find your new favorite way to get to work.
Do you have any tips for commuting by bike? What’s your favorite bike path in to work?