The benefits of bicycling are no secret. It’s good for your mind, body, wallet and the environment.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, bike commuters report lower stress and greater feelings of freedom, relaxation and excitement than car commuters. The organization also reports the average annual operating cost of a bicycle is $308, compared to $8,220 for the average car.
Cars are the single-largest source of U.S. air pollution, and short trips are up to three times more polluting per mile than long trips. When bicycling is substituted for short car trips, 3.6 pounds of pollutants per mile are not emitted into the atmosphere.
So how do you get started as a bike commuter? Here are a few tips to help you make that first trip to work by bicycle.
1. Prep your bike. As long as you feel comfortable on it, any bike will work. Make sure the tires are pumped up, lights are attached, brakes are tight and wheels are spinning.
Bikes can use a good tune-up at least once a year, so don’t hesitate to stop by your local bike shop and make sure everything is working properly.
Don’t have a bicycle? Consider renting one from the Bike Library. It’s a great way to try out different types of bikes and get used to riding before making a purchase.
2. Plan your route. Fort Collins has an extensive network of trails and low-stress bike routes. It is best to plan ahead because the route you bike will likely be different than the route you drive.
Consider traffic volumes and speeds when choosing your route. While the distance may be longer, you can’t beat a safe, relaxed commute. Check out the city’s bike map at fcgov.com/bicycling or try the available online routing tools (Google maps, Ride the City) to find a good route.
3. Consider combining modes of transportation. Carpooling or taking transit can be a good way to make a long-distance bike commute more manageable. All Transfort buses are equipped with bike racks. Check the bus route map and local park-and-ride locations for options along your commute.
4. Know the rules of the road. In Colorado, a bicycle is considered a vehicle. People on bikes must adhere to the same rules and regulations as people driving cars. Ride the same direction as traffic, use hand signals to indicate your movements, stop at all stop signs and red lights and be predictable.
5. Attend a bike class or event. June is Bike Month in Colorado. Several activities are scheduled throughout the month, offering a wide range of opportunities for those who want to try bicycling. For those looking for a place to practice your skills or for free bike safety checks, come to Open Streets on June 7.
For those just learning how to ride a bike or interested in getting back on a bike, there is an Adult Learn to Ride class available. For those interested in learning how to commute with kids, there is a Cycling with Children presentation on June 17.
For those who want to commute to work for the first time with thousands of other cyclists for support and a free breakfast around every corner, there is the 28th annual Bike to Work Day on June 24.
For more information on Bike Month events, visit fcgov.com/bikemonth.
Becky Moriarty is an FC Bikes Program Specialist for the City of Fort Collins and a member of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Education Coalition.