365 Ways #31–Is it healthier to ride or drive for your commute?

#31--So it was another Code Orange Smog Alert in Atlanta. And after riding to work today, one of my clients asks how I can ride when the air is so unhealthy. So I explain to her:

I like to ride
I like to make the smallest carbon footprint possible
I like to save money on wear/tear/gas on my Mini (I'm averaging about 6K a year, I think)
I like to start my day with some exercise for the hormonal and metabolic benefit it gives me
I like not being part of the problem!

Then I get a study forwarded to me by a fellow cyclist who was green before it was cool. The article from this month's Environmental Health Perspective says "the benefits of increased activity outweigh the risks and potential hazards of cycling. There is already ample evidence linking the benefits of daily exercise to the decrease of cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. Riding to work and back each day (30 minutes a day for 5 days a week), a degree of effort many cyclists would consider minimal, can have a profound effect. According to the study data, cycling to work regularly results in 3-14 months of increased life expectancy, versus .8-40 days estimated reduced life expectancy because of pollution inhalation and the average of 5-9 days lost due to traffic accidents."

The article continues with an eye opening stat: "The U.S. could save 462 million gallons of gasoline a year by increasing cycling from 1% to 1.5% of all trips (Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, Bike Traffic, May 2002)." So on top of improving our health, easing traffic congestion, improving air and water quality, and saving money, you can add reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and foreign oil to the benefits. So I signed a pledge at www.peopleforbikes.org, and I urge you to do the same. You may not like riding as much as I do--most people don't. But besides making you feel like a kid again, playing on the pedals for a short trip to the post office or wherever makes it fun to be part of the solution.

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