Remember how much fun you had peeling out on your bike as a kid? For an estimated 57 million enthusiasts in the United States, cycling has never lost its charm. Many simply appreciate a high-intensity workout; others relish a weekend ride through the countryside. But a growing number of people are relying on biking as a healthy and eco-conscious alternative for their daily commute—and public officials, businesses, and even yoga studios are falling in line.
Municipal projects across America are bolstering the bike-commuting movement with safer and more accessible ways to ride. Initiatives range from public bike-sharing systems to infrastructure overhauls in highway-heavy cities: Washington, DC, revamped its community bicycle program last year to offer 800 percent more bikes, and New York City will launch the largest bike-sharing initiative in the country by 2012. The City Council of Los Angeles, meanwhile, recently approved a plan to establish 1,680 miles of bikeways.
When you cycle, you have to be completely present in the moment, just like in yoga. You’re not allowed to participate in the drama in your head, as much as that appeals to your brain.
Thanks to a 2008 federal tax incentive, employers can offer employees $20 a month for regularly cycling to work. Companies from the National Geographic Society to Seattle Children’s Hospital provide added support for cycling employees with facilities and services like on-site showers, changing rooms, and bicycle storage. Clif Bar & Company throws in a $500 bonus to buy a commuter bike or retrofit an existing ride.
The yoga community is getting behind the movement, too. The People’s Yoga in Portland, Oregon, offers a bike punch card, giving pedal pushers a free yoga class after 10 rides to the studio. Four miles away, Belmont Yoga teacher and cycling enthusiast Ellee Thalheimer offers bike-centric hatha classes, which address the specific aches and pains of bike-riding and emphasize breathing techniques, endurance, and one-pointed focus. “When you cycle, you have to be completely present in the moment, just like in yoga,” she says. “You’re not allowed to participate in the drama in your head, as much as that appeals to your brain.”
Thalheimer also cofounded a nonprofit business alliance, the Portland Society, to promote livable streets and neighborhoods by supporting bike-centric projects by other female entrepreneurs. “If people invest in cycling infrastructure, put financial backing behind incentives to ride, and combine it with education on how to cycle safely,” she says, “quality of life will go up.”
Biking by Numbers
- 6-20: number of bicycles that can be parked in one car parking space.
- 15: pounds of pollutants that are kept from release into the air by making a four-mile round-trip bike ride.
- 37%: percentage that bicycle riding increased in the U.S. from 2005 to 2009.
- $5000: maximum dollars a year each commuter could save by cycling to work, according to 2010 estimates by Time magazine (figure out your cost savings at Kiplinger.)
- 238 million: gallons of gas bicycle commuters currently save per year by choosing to ride a bike to work instead of a car.