Let’s celebrate National Bike to Work Week

Published 8:45 am Monday, May 17, 2010

National Bike-to-Work Week is this week, May 17 to 21, and Albert Lea will be ready!

Why bike to work? Because the benefits are huge! Benefits like improving your mental and physical health, escaping the stress of traffic, rediscovering the freedom of bicycling, saving on the cost of fuel, helping out the planet and just plain having fun. Bicycling is a low impact, aerobic activity that has realized resurgence in the United States. In fact, 42.5 million Americans already ride bicycles, according to a National Sporting Goods Association 2000 study, which is more than participate in any other sport.

Bicycling is great for you! It provides a healthful workout that improves your heart-lung muscular functions, balance and your sense of well-being. It particularly improves your cardiovascular endurance. The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health states that, “Physical activity of the type that improves cardiovascular endurance reduces the risk of developing or dying from cardiovascular disease, hypertension, colon cancer and type 2 diabetes and improves mental health. Findings are suggestive that endurance-type physical activity may reduce the risk of developing obesity, osteoporosis and depression and may improve psychological well-being and quality of life.”

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It’s also an opportunity for you to play a role in reducing vehicle-related emissions, lowering your carbon footprint and making a significant contribution to the health of our planet. Motor vehicle emissions represent 31 percent of total carbon dioxide and 81 percent of carbon monoxide released in the U.S., according to “The Green Commuter,” a publication of the Clean Air Council.

A short, four-mile trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air we breathe, according to the WorldWatch Institute. And, don’t forget that bicycling to work will keep you from those increasingly escalating fuel costs and, relative to cars, bicycles are much cheaper to purchase and maintain.

Your efforts could even have a snowball effect on Albert Lea’s ever-continuing Vitality Project. With more bicyclists on our streets there will be greater public awareness and acceptance. This could lead to safer cycling and a strong community focus on developing more bicycle trails and lanes. This might even lead to many of our children finding or re-exploring the joy and freedom of safe cycling. If you have any suggestions or ideas on how to make Albert Lea and Freeborn County more bike friendly, send me an e-mail: schulz.john@mayo.edu.

Remember this is a national event that reflects a growing resurgence of bicycling. As you travel around the state and country notice the steadily increasing commitment to cycling. There are more biking trails and lanes being built and extended everywhere from rural areas like Albert Lea and Lanesboro to heavily trafficked downtown areas like New York City. Minneapolis is fast becoming one of the most bikeable communities in the country!

So, in the spirit of Albert Lea’s Vitality movement, join us this week as we encourage everyone to keep their car in the garage, oil up the bicycle and pedal to work. Remember, bicycling is much more than simply an alternative transportation; so reap the short and long-term benefits!

For more information on bicycling and other activities associated with the Vitality movement here in Albert Lea and Freeborn County check out the National Vitality Center website at www.nationalvitalitycenter.org or the Healthy Freeborn County website at www.healthyfreeborncounty.org.

Albert Lea resident John Schulz is a medical doctor at the Albert Lea Medical Center.